'Untested' Ekana Stadium wicket to host World Cup games

By, Lucknow
Sep 21, 2023 11:56 PM IST

The newly-laid wicket at the Lucknow stadium is scheduled to host five World Cup matches, including the India-England game on October 29.

The Ekana Cricket Stadium in Lucknow will host five matches in the ODI World Cup starting next month, but its newly laid wicket is yet to be adequately tested. India’s World Cup match against England is also scheduled at this venue on October 29.

Lucknow's Ekana Stadium will host five World Cup matches.(HT_PRINT)
Lucknow's Ekana Stadium will host five World Cup matches.(HT_PRINT)

The stadium hosted its first international match in November 2018 and, after one Test, four men’s ODIs, six men’s T20Is and five IPL matches, has earned a reputation of being a nightmare for batters.

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The UPCA decided to re-lay the wicket when in a T20I in January, India toiled to 100 in 19.5 overs chasing New Zealand’s total of 99 and won by two wickets. Stand-in skipper Hardik Pandya called it a “shocker of a pitch”. After the match, curator Surendra Chauhan was sacked by the stadium administration and a decision was taken to re-lay the square. And after a few low-scoring games during the Indian Premier League in April-May, the wicket was re-laid. The Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association (UPCA) had brought in curator Sanjeev Agarwal from Gwalior to oversee the proceedings.

“We conducted a few local matches on Friday and Saturday, and the bounce of the re-laid pitch and the square are perfect,” UPCA’s CEO Ankit Chatterjee said. “Now the venue has been handed over to ICC (the organisers of the World Cup). So, no further practice matches are possible now,” he added.

A stadium official on condition of anonymity: “Technically, the stadium was taken over by the ICC a month in advance on September 11 as the venue is due to host its first match of the World Cup between Australia and South Africa on October 12, so there was no question of conducting even a practice match on September 15 and 16 as the UPCA bosses say.”

Former chief of the BCCI’s pitches and grounds committee Daljit Singh said: “It’s going to be a risky affair as the pitch manual says that every soil, especially after re-laying, should be tested by conducting practice matches before hosting competitive international games on them.”

The ICC remained hopeful though. “The square has had extensive renovation since the Lucknow Super Giants claimed the stadium as their home venue. The stage will be set for Australia vs South Africa on October 12, where history will be made as the stadium hosts its first-ever World Cup fixture,” it stated on its pitches and grounds review.

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    Sharad Deep is a versatile sports journalist, who loves writing on cricket and Olympic sport. He has played cricket at the university level and has been writing for Hindustan Times since 1997.

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