Mohali markers: Bowled over by PCA cricket stadium
Spread over 13.5 acres, the PCA is built on marshy land, part of the catchment of a seasonal rivulet with deep ravines.punjab Updated: Aug 12, 2017 16:48 IST
Long before Mohali got its world class educational institutes and its modern outlook, it was Punjab Cricket Association stadium that put it on the world map with an India-West Indies ODI in 1993.Now as the city expands, PCA still stands as an important landmark.
Spread over 13.5 acres, the PCA is built on marshy land, part of the catchment of a seasonal rivulet with deep ravines. So, when the proposal for building a stadium on this wasteland was mooted in 1989, even people from the sporting fraternity took it as a joke. But that patch of marshy land soon gave the city a global footprint.
- AC Lounge – 600
- Pavillion Terrace – 2580
- VIP Block – 5439
- Chair Block – 9339
- Student Block – 2500
- North Pavillion – 600
- PCC Members Block – 5400
The stadium has played a gracious host to 40 international games, including 13 test matches, the latest one being India-England test match in November last year. And it has treated cricket fans to
innumerable memorable moments, including India’s win over Pakistan in the 2011 World Cup semifinals.
Apart from a world class stadium, PCA has top-notch training facilities that have honed the skills of stars like Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh.
Many former players still treasure the breathtaking view from the middle. “We were in the first batch that started practicing in Mohali. We were given jobs in Punjab Communications Limited (PCL) and I must say getting inside the venue and seeing the lush green outfield used to take our breath away. I scored my maiden first class century here against Madhya Pradesh. No doubt it is one of my most cherished memories,” says former Punjab skipper Pankaj Dharmani, who besides playing an ODI represented Punjab in 147 first class matches.
LOOK BACK WITH PRIDE
It was in the early 1980s that the PCA decided to build its own facility. Till then, the association had tried leasing out Gandhi ground, Amritsar, FC Sondhi Ground, Jalandhar, and even the Sector 16 cricket stadium. “Both Amritsar and Jalandhar grounds were not available for long lease and we were told we can’t make architectural changes in Sector 16. It was then the idea of having a place in Mohali came up. We had five-star luxury hotels in Chandigarh besides an airport, so it seemed feasible,” says MP Pandove, former secretary general of PCA who along with then president IS Bindra, spearheaded the move to build the stadium.
“This area was a swamp, people were unsure when we first unveiled the plan and took them to the site,” remembers Pandove. The place was originally meant for a velodrome to host nationals but eventfully the state government agreed to give PCA the 13.5 acres and shifted the velodrome to Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana.
“Once we got the lease, we moved very fast and had the facility up and running in two years. At that point, we took care of the playing area, indoor facility, nets, gym and team dressing rooms. It was players and fans who then spread the word. Before we knew it, Mohali, long dubbed Chandigarh’s poor cousin, began to be associated with the world-class PCA stadium. It meant a lot to us,” Pandove adds.
He recalls how on the eve of the first ODI, parts of the stadium were still under construction, which sent DD cameramen into a tizzy. “We had built a platform for the cameras at the north end and the shuttering was removed on the eve of the match. The DD cameramen refused to climb up thinking it might collapse. So at 2.30 am at night Mr Bindra and I climbed up and jumped on the platform to assure them of its stability,” laughs Pandove.
- Name of the Two Ends: South End Pavillion and North End Pavillion
- Size of the Playing Arena: 3.85 acres
- Facilities: Gym and health club; extra gym for players; swimming pools; tennis courts; restaurant and bar etc
PCA went on to host India-West Indies Test match in 1994, a year after they hosted their first ODI match, becoming one of the premier and most loved venue for players and fans across the world. Vikram Rathore, a Punjab stalwart who played a bulk of his cricket at PCA, recalls how the facilities inside the stadium felt like those of a five-star hotel.
“Till then people hadn’t seen a stadium like this. It was and still is one of the best venues in the country. I remember it felt huge when I first entered the stadium and walked into the middle. It was and is phenomenal,” gushes Rathore, who was also a national selector till last year.
Rathore remembers how he scored his first century against touring Sri Lanka side at this venue. “We were not considered a top team in the country. But the stadium changed it all. Since we were Ranji Trophy winners, we had a chance to play a warm-up match against the touring Lankans. I notched up a century in that match, making the venue memorable for me,” he said.
PCA reached the peak of its popularity when it hosted the India-Pakistan 2011 World Cup semifinals. The buzz around the match brought the tricity to standstill. The win was celebrated not only inside the stadium but on the roads by jubilant fans. The match between the arch-rivals was witnessed by the prime ministers of both the countries Yousaf Raza Gillani and Manmohan Singh. “We also had UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in attendance besides the entire bureaucracy of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh and hosts of other VVIPs. I can’t remember the number of chartered flights but Chandigarh airport was left with no parking space so the flights either flew to Jaipur or Adampur and waited for the match to get over,” recalls Pandove.
India won the match by 29 runs and went on to bag the World Cup in Wankhede Stadium. “We were the original association that introduced modern facilities and equipment; HPCA and Wankhede studied our infrastructure to upgrade their stadiums,” claims Pandove.
PCA TURNS TO A NEW VENUE
With an entire city growing around it and space getting more scarce, PCA has already started working on their new stadium in Mullanpur, which should be ready by 2018-19.
The pressure of the new-age cricket with regards to fans experience and TV coverage has now forced PCA to think of a new venue. “When cricket started being covered live we had just two cameras and now even that number has grown exponentially. Besides with IPL, it has become more of an entertainment. So we felt the need for a new venue,” Pandove adds.
The new facility is coming up in Mullanpur and will have a capacity of 35,000 to 40,000, around 10,000 more than PCA. RP Singla who heads the ad-hoc committee running PCA, says, “We will soon start the club house facility and the ground will be operational by 2018 end.” Singla says the facility will meet the new guidelines for an international venue. “It will have better facilities for players, fans and media alike. Our plan is to host an international match here in 2019,” he adds.
The association plans to keep domestic and first class matches in Mohali and use the new facility to host camps. “We will try and get a permanent BCCI academy here since we have residential facilities,” says Singla.
We can only say amen to that.