For now, it’s a long, dusty, bumpy ride in an auto-rickshaw 16 km down the Jamnagar state highway. As a very pleasant morning quickly changes into a scorching day, the light towers of the stadium greet you from far.
Earth-movers, road-layers and cranes parked on either side of the two-lane road are testimony to development in this part, much of it surrounding this new cricket stadium built by the Saurashtra Cricket Association.
Not far from the stadium, close to the Khanderi village, a boundary wall with a signboard of a star hotel construction site bears significance.
Once this stadium is ready to host international matches, this could be where the cricket caravan pitches tent. But traffic being sparse, from the city to here it’s a half-an-hour ride in a speeding team bus.
As one enters the ground from an open area adjacent to the two ultra-modern dressing rooms, a Lord’s look-alike media box catches the eye.
“I have been travelling to cricket grounds around the world and I have picked up designs of things I have liked and altered them to suit our needs,” SCA secretary and BCCI vice-president Niranjan Shah says, a tone of pride in his voice like a child’s showing off his favourite toy.
Eighty per cent work complete
The work is almost 80% complete. Shah himself says it’s six months behind schedule. But what is most impressive in the setup is the amount of breathing space in the construction.
“The concept has changed. In the past, stadiums were built to accommodate maximum people in the smallest space. Now, spectator comfort is the priority,”says Shah.
No wonder then, that such a massive structure — the stadium complex spreads across 30 acres — has a sitting capacity of just around 28,000.
“People should not feel cramped. There is enough room between rows and seats so that they are comfortable and can move around and have their food. It is also safer in a way that there isn’t a chance of stampede in case of an evacuation. We have also left open areas between stands so that once the stadium is full, players do not feel claustrophobic,” says Shah.
“The whole thing will be ready before the IPL. Let’s see if we can host matches of Mumbai Indians or Rajasthan Royals (if they are there), may be matches from Pune. But I plan to get a women’s cricket match between India and the West Indies in the middle of January to test the facilities, the floodlights, everything.”