Motera: The stadium that will host Donald Trump
It is only fitting for India, cricket’s financial powerhouse, to boast of the sport’s biggest stadium in terms of seating capacity. Before Indian cricket grounds embraced individual box seats, the Eden Gardens in Kolkata was said to fit over 100,000 spectators. But that number fell to 66,000 once it was renovated in time for the 2011 World Cup.
Now, the rebuilt Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera, Ahmedabad, will seat 110,000 spectators, more than doubling its previous capacity of 54,000. It will take over from the Melbourne Cricket Ground (90,000 seats) and will officially be open for business next Monday – not with a cricket match, but when US President Donald Trump inaugurates the venue on the banks of the Sabarmati.
The Sardar Patel Stadium -- or Motera, as it is simply known -- was first built in 1982 when the state government of Gujarat donated 50 acres of land for its construction. The ground began hosting international cricket a year later in 1983. So far, Motera has held one T20I (Pakistan’s final international on Indian soil, played back in 2012), 12 Test matches and 24 ODIs -- the last of which, between India and Sri Lanka in November 2014, was also the final game it hosted before it closed for reconstruction.
By September 2015, the work to build the “world’s largest cricket stadium” began, sanctioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi (he has also served as the president of the Gujarat Cricket Association, which runs the venue).
The old Motera witnessed a barrage of significant moments during its three-decade run. On this patch of land, Sunil Gavaskar scored his 10,000th Test run against Pakistan in the 1986-87 series, while Kapil Dev went past Richard Hadlee to become the then highest wicket-taker in Test cricket in 1994, during a match against Sri Lanka.
Sachin Tendulkar, too, had his share of great moments at Ahmedabad’s premier cricket ground. Apart from striking his first Test double hundred here (against New Zealand in 1999), Tendulkar also went past the 18,000-run mark in ODI cricket during the 2011 World Cup quarter-final against Australia.
That match against Australia handed the three-time reigning champions its first World Cup defeat in the new century, and India its most memorable win at the venue. But apart from that historic moment, Motera was by no means a dominant ground for the Indian cricket team. In 15 ODIs here, India had a lopsided record — winning seven and losing eight. Similarly, in Test cricket, the home team recorded just four wins from 12 Tests, with two defeats and six draws. In the only T20I played here, India beat Pakistan by 11 runs.
Two men from Karnataka, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble, top the ground’s Test charts, with 771 runs and 36 wickets respectively. Dravid, in fact, took a special shining to Motera, leading the scoring charts in ODI cricket too with 342 runs from five ODIs. Across formats, he scored five international hundreds in Ahmedabad -- three in Tests and two in ODIs.
Despite being ready in time for Trump’s visit, the venue will not host a game during the upcoming Indian Premier League, but expects to return to action sometime in April or May. The ground has already been finalised for a day/night Test when England tours India in early 2021 and there have also been reports of the venue hosting an exhibition cricket match between an Asia XI and World XI, pertaining to an approval from the International Cricket Council.
Built over a period of nearly five years and at a cost of ₹800 crores, the new Motera holds within it the main ground, two more practice grounds and also an arena for indoor training. That’s just for cricket. Sitting over 63 acres of land now, the venue also has facilities for football, hockey, basketball, tennis, billiards, squash, kabaddi, boxing, an Olympic-size swimming pool and an athletics track.
Not to mention, a Presidential visit.