Mohali and Nagpur Eye-Catching Omissions from Host Cities List

Credit: ESPN

All major sporting events come with their own share of surprises. The Cricket World Cup 2023 has churned out a few already, well before getting off to a start. First was the delayed announcement of the itinerary. For the previous 50-over World Cup held in England in 2019, fixtures were out over a year before the first match. This time, it’s been done with just 100 days to go.

Next is the omission of certain venues, which hosted big matches in the past. Among the 10 host cities selected, there is no Mohali or Nagpur. Mohali in Punjab/Chandigarh became a prominent centre after hosting its first Test in 1995 and went on to stage World Cup semi-finals in 1996 and 2011. That 2011 game was between India and Pakistan, with the Prime Ministers of the two countries in attendance. Security arrangements were insane, but the match took place smoothly.

The VCA Stadium on the outskirts of Nagpur was billed the best in India after it hosted its first Test in 2008. It soon became a regular destination for international cricket, staging India vs South Africa in the 2011 World Cup and a clutch of matches during the T20 World Cup in 2016. It has also hosted Test matches featuring teams like Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand.

Reasons in favour of venue selection

At the same time, it is also true that history alone cannot be a criteria for selecting venues. Stadiums in some of the places chosen like Lucknow, Dharamsala and Pune are newer in comparison with the ones in Mohali and Nagpur. Stadiums in Kolkata and Chennai have been renovated. That way, it’s possible that in terms of infrastructure in the host city, ground conditions, training facilities and spectator comfort at the stadium, authorities deem these cities to be better than Mohali and Nagpur at the moment.

Also, it cannot be overlooked that Mohali and Nagpur got a lot of big matches when the representatives of the respective state associations enjoyed influence in the Board of Cricket for Control in India (BCCI). IS Bindra, a former BCCI president himself, was in the corridors of power for quite some time. Another former BCCI president, Shashank Manohar of the Vidarbha Cricket Association, was also either in power or close to the power for a long time.

There is another allegation against Nagpur that the pitches at the VCA Stadium are slow and offer turn, which is not conducive for limited-over games. In the T20 World Cup, a number of matches saw totals in the region of 120. Even Test matches got over in three days, the latest being the one against Australia in February.

However in sports like football, selection of venues for marquee events is done on the basis of the history of the game in the city, its contribution to the history of the country’s football, spectator comfort and safety at the stadiums and other factors. That does not seem to be the case with the distribution of World Cup matches this time. So to keep Mohali and Nagpur out still seems strange, especially because there have no complaints about facilities there, for players and for fans.

Reasons against venue selection

The same cannot be said of Pune and Hyderabad — set to host five and three matches. In Pune, the stadium is nearly 25kms from the city and there is no public transport on the last 15kms of that stretch. One has to walk around 2kms from the parking lot to the entrance of the stadium. Then, about 75 percent of the stands are uncovered, which means spectators have to sit under the sun for matches starting at 1.30 pm. In Hyderabad also, more than half of the stands don’t have shade, although there is news that could be remedied before the World Cup.

I recently saw the four Tests against Australia, and spent a lot of time in the stands. Facilities for spectators were the best in Nagpur. Each block has multiple entry and exit points, free drinking water is easily available (this may not the same when an ODI match is taking place), and the food is the cheapest among the four centres. These are important considerations because spectators are not allowed to carry edibles or beverages inside the stadium in India.

There may still be factors which tilted in favour of Pune and Hyderabad instead of Mohali and Nagpur. However, having been to all four places a number of times, the decision to leave out the last two seems strange. Not smelling bias or favouritism, but saying this going purely by experience and expectations.

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