Set along the many jewels of the Queen’s Necklace in south Mumbai, the Brabourne Stadium has a grand, old-worldly charm. Everything about the place, veiled under the calm white façade, speaks of the times long gone. But it’s not a neglected, ageing wonder. The 72-year-old institution is about to begin its second innings when Test cricket comes calling again on Wednesday.
International cricket made a re-entry onto this turf in 2006, under harsh floodlights. The venue even witnessed the phenomenon of Twenty20 cricket. It's now time for the real thing. In danger from the younger, faster versions, Test cricket will return to the Brabourne after 36 years when India take on Sri Lanka in the third and final match of the series.
With the Wankhede Stadium, which was born due a dispute between the Mumbai Cricket Association and Brabourne’s caretakers-the Cricket Club of India-over seating capacity, under renovation for the 2011 World Cup, Brabourne will host the Test.
The teams, India and Sri Lanka, had the taste of it as they had their first practice session on Monday. India, with a huge win in the second Test at Kanpur, lead the series 1-0.
The last time India played at the Brabourne, against England in 1973, they were just about asserting their presence on the world stage. The series followed their stupendous wins on West Indian and English soils.
Once again, they return to the venue in search of supremacy. If India win, they will end the year as the number one Test team in the world.
“I am delighted that Test cricket is back at the Brabourne,” said a nostalgic Ajit Wadekar, captain of the India team when they last played here. “We have some great memories here. There are few grounds which have that special atmosphere.”
Guessing on how the pitch would play out over five days is a risky exercise. For the record, 11 out of the 17 Test matches here have ended in a draw and, historically, it has been a happy hunting ground for the batsmen. The last Test here produced 1239 runs, but that was almost three decades ago.
In contrast, Wankhede has been one of the most capricious venues of late. Of the last five Tests there, only one has gone to the final day. India hasn’t had the better end of the bargain, losing three of those, to three different opponents — South Africa, Australia and England.
With every coming international venture, Brabourne has tried to keep pace with the times, has softened its exclusive visage just that little bit. And despite little adornments like giant screens and electronic scoreboards, it will be an interesting homecoming for Test cricket.