The average cricket fan’s knowledge of cricket stadiums is usually way below average. When I asked a self-proclaimed addict to guess the size of the cricket field, he gave me a know-it-all look and answered: ‘22 yards’.
I bowed before his infinite wisdom and mustered the courage to pose one more question: is the Maracana (where the 2014 FIFA world cup finals was staged) bigger than the Eden Gardens? He replied: ‘Obviously’. He was wrong again as the Eden Gardens is about three times larger and can seat 12,000 more people!
The blame for the cricket buff’s ignorance should be laid at the door of the banal commentators who fill our heads with nothing more than ‘lush green outfield’ and ‘the stadium is packed like a can of sardines’. One has rarely heard any shimmering insights on any of the arenas from the Siddhus and the Shastris. Eden Gardens has hosted 39 test matches in the last 70 years. But never once have we been told that it’s the only international cricketing venue to be named after a woman. To be specific, it’s a nod to Emily Eden, a Jane Austen-style authoress and the sister of the then Governor General of India.
Actually, every other ground has a tale waiting to be discovered. Did you know that the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore is a tribute to the Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi? It was Pakistan’s way of saying ‘thank you’ for a speech he gave in support of its right to possess nuclear weapons. Even Lord’s has an interesting backstory. It’s named after Thomas Lord, a wine merchant and bowler, who was commissioned by the earlier avatar of MCC to find a suitable ground for their matches.
The Gabba, to most outsiders, is a quirky choice for a White Aussie stadium. But everything falls in place when we find out that it’s a locational moniker like Mohali derived from the suburb ‘Woolloongabba’ (aborigine slang for ‘fighting place’).
The Iqbal ground at Faisalabad in Pakistan is the only one to have honoured a poet. The poet was, of course, Allama Muhammad Iqbal (the man who wrote Saare Jahan Se Accha). Likewise, Pallekele and Antigua are the exceptions to have stadiums named after cricketers. Muthiah Muralitharan and Viv Richards. Bet you didn’t see that beamer coming!