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Will Sabina leave happier memories

Sabina Park has not been a good venue for India. They have never won there in eight matches, losing six and drawing two.

india Updated: Jul 01, 2006 16:20 IST

"The spectacular Blue Mountains (home of the world famous Blue Mountain coffee) form a picturesque and spectacular backdrop to the north facing the George Headley Stand (of Sabina Park)," says Cricinfo, the popular cricket website.

Not any more. The Blue Mountains are still there but the not the view. From the Headley Stand all you see is the partially-completed multi-tiered concrete stand coming up for next year's World Cup. Two giant cranes loom over it, scaffolding is draped all across it and steel rods jut out to the sky in ugly dissonance.

The construction means there are no spectators on the North End. And none at the "grounds section" at the eastern side, the section where the "real" cricket lovers used to sit, expressing loudly and vociferously their opinions on the action in the middle. That stand has given to the party stand for the World Cup.

Another consequence of all the construction for the World Cup is the players are housed in the Kingston Cricket Club pavilion, on the western side, watching the action side-on. This was the original players' pavilion at Sabina Park (in recent years the players sat in the George Headley Stand) and old-timers have vivid memories of an incident concerning a former Indian visiting team in that pavilion.

"It was from there that (Bishen Singh) Bedi came out, waving a white handkerchief," says Charlie, the groundsman, referring to the fourth and final Test of the 1975-76 series. Bedi ended India's second innings at 97, with five batsmen absent hurt, following a barrage of bouncers from the Michael Holding led West Indies pace attack.

"Bedi said, 'We are here to play cricket, not fight a war,'" Charlie said with an approving nod. For the likes of Charlie, cricket will always remain a gentleman's game.

Sabina Park has not been a good venue for Indian teams. They have never won there in eight matches, losing six and drawing two. The last defeat was in the 2001-02 tour, when Sourav Ganguly's team came 1-1 into the the fifth Test of the series, but lost it by 155 runs, and the series 2-1.

An ominous sign for Dravid and his men? Or will the changing face of the stadium turn India's fortunes around?