For the Indian cricket traveller used to concrete stands, the De Beers Diamond Oval looks like a little gem. Even though it's a short drive from the centre of the city, it’s far removed from the hustle and bustle associated with grounds back home and the serenity surrounding the small stadium with sprawling slopes offers a soothing change at a time when the game is trying to move at a fast pace.
This is not a regular venue for high-profile matches and has hosted 10 ODIs since 1998. Home to South African first-class side Griqualand West, the De Beers Diamond Oval has also had some warm-up games featuring international teams. The stands are not as tall as the ones you see elsewhere and the capacity is just 6000. With the IPL in town, almost all tickets for Saturday's doubleheader have been sold out.
“We were given 4500 tickets and the rest was reserved for the IPL. Seeing the huge demand for tickets, we requested for 1000 more and got about 500,” said stadium manager Ben Neethling.
He said that tickets for Monday’s matches are yet to be sold out but is hopeful that stands would be full that day too. “People have shown great interest and the moderate price (60 rand per adult for the doubleheader, 30 rand for those below 18) has gone down well.”
Neethling is also in charge of preparing the pitch and predicted a run feast. “This ground is renowned for its flat surface. Although it's the end of our domestic season and we got just about four weeks to get things in place, the work has been satisfactory. The surface will play true in any case because it's just a matter of a few overs, not a matter of a few days.”
Built by the diamond giants for staff recreation, this pretty ground with no skyscrapers in the vicinity has a maximum of 35 playing days every year.
The list of prominent players from here isn't big. Kepler Wessels, Ray Jennings and Loots Bosman are the only well-known players who spent their formative years at this ground which makes it one of the most low-profile international venues. Come Saturday, it will get a chance to show what it lacks in history, it can make up in ambience.