The recent contest between India and England at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot provoked a sense of familiarity. Staring at images of the media centre, one couldn’t help but view similarities with the pod shaped structure that became famous as part of the Lord’s sky line when it arrived for the 1999 World Cup. But the familiarity extended beyond that single structure. As modern and functional as the SCA Stadium proves to be, it possesses a visual similarity to other modern, newly built cricket stadiums. (see Raipur, Trivandrum, Navi Mumbai, Nagpur, Dubai etc) Somewhat sadly, there appears to be a homogenisation amongst new build stadiums so that character and identity are deemed outmoded. One wonders whether the new stadium being constructed in Perth, which potentially could replace the WACA as Western Australia’s test venue of choice, will fall into the same category.
Further matches at Pune and Nagpur during England’s tour highlight another phenomenon though: the out of town venue. The constraints and cost of constructing or modernising inner city stadia unsurprisingly forces developers to head out into the country where space is bounteous and communication links a little less cluttered. From a logistical point of view this new policy makes sense: bigger stadia, easier to move people around, more room for all the fripperies which are now part and parcel of the international game.
But from a spectating point of view there is one aspect that is arguably overlooked. Whilst cricket provides some beautiful bucolic, country views the international variants are more often than not played in large cities. Thus, the grounds and stadia used are surrounded by the buildings and structures of their home location. Some panoramas have become famous in the cricketing world; the skyscrapers of downtown Adelaide and Sydney, the rolling hills providing a beautiful backdrop to Wellington’s Basin Reserve, the brewery and Table Mountain at Newlands in Cape Town, the old Dutch fort at Galle and the Oval’s famous gas cylinders. The grounds and the views / structures associated with them have enjoyed a certain symbiosis. One would perhaps lose something without the other.
Such iconic views and buildings are part of the beauty and charm of inner city grounds. For the new brethren these vistas are sadly lacking; vast, open tracts of city hinterland providing bland, nondescript equivalents between any gaps in the stands. International venues are famous for their landmarks and those aspects that make them instantly identifiable. The danger is that such quirks and points of interest are being lost amid a slew of homogenous replacements. Where are we playing? In the old days it was likely a case of just look at the skyline or the stadium’s stands. Now it would be a case of checking the program, scorecard or the internet as one modern stadium all but resembles another or resides out in the barren hinterland of the major city it is supposed to represent. The stadia may be bigger, higher and possessing better facilities but there is something lacking, something that perhaps warms the soul.