The Motera ground is going to enter the record book as the biggest cricket stadium in the world with a seating capacity of 110,000.
The first thing team India will try to ensure in the Pink ball Test in Ahmedabad is not to lose the match as it will seriously put their chances of making it to the first-ever World Test Championship final spot in danger.
However, they will be banking on the current form and, of course, a bit of history. It was on this ground that the MS Dhoni-led team had stopped Australia from making it into their 5th ODI World cup semi-final in a row (which no team has) when it defeated the Aussies in the 2011 Cricket World Cup quarterfinal.
The third match of the Test series between India and England gets underway on February 24 afternoon in Ahmadabad. In many ways, the newly built stadium, which is famously known as the Motera, is the quintessential milestone ground of India.
This was the ground where Sunil Gavaskar became the first player in cricket history to enter a unique club of 10,000 Test runs (against Pakistan in 1986-87). Another iconic Indian player, Kapil Dev, claimed his most-eagerly awaited 432nd wicket on this ground when he went past New Zealand’s Sir Richard Hadlee as Test cricket's highest wicket-taker.
Now, Ishant Sharma is all set to play his 100th Test on this ground. It is a remarkable feat as he becomes the first India pacer (Kapil was all-rounder) and overall only the 5th pacer in Test history (James Anderson, Glenn McGrath, Courtney Walsh and Makhaya Ntini are others who played as a pace bowler) to play 100 Tests.
It is unlikely that any other pacer from India can join Ishant in the future as most of the upcoming bowlers invariably tend to focus more on white-ball cricket. “To play 100 Tests for a fast bowler is as good as 150 Tests for a batsman. I hope he plays for many more years and inspires the next group of fast bowlers too,” said Indian captain Virat Kohli - who also made his first-class debut for Delhi along with Ishant in the same match - ahead of the game.
It could be a landmark Test match for another Indian bowler, Ravichandaran Ashwin. He is also on the verge of entering the 400 Test-wicket-club as the second-fastest man in the history of the game. Ashwin has 394 Test wickets so far and is in a good form (in the previous Test in Chennai he got 8 wickets).
The pair of Ishant- Ashwin is a bit like the former Karnataka duo of Javagal Srinath and Anil Kumble. Srinath like Ishant was always considered a bit unlucky not to have as many wickets, while Ashwin is a great successor of Kumble who too was unplayable at home and a formidable presence overseas in the second half of his career.
Besides players, of course, the ground is also going to enter the record book as the biggest cricket stadium in the world with a seating capacity of 110,000. And for the local fans, the icing on the cake is the presence of the two players from Gujarat in Jasprit Bumrah and Axar Patel in the playing XI. Cheteshwar Pujara is also from Gujarat but represents Saurashtra in the Ranji Trophy.
Had there been no COVID-19 concerns, this could have been the historic Test match in other ways also. Arguably, with a seating capacity of 110,000, the refurbished stadium could have easily broken the record of the most fans in a Test match.
Although, the records for the biggest crowd attendances in cricket history are a subject of debate since a lot of matches from the past didn’t have officially recorded numbers of fans for each match. However, Eden Gardens in Kolkata is said to have hosted more than 100,000 people on several occasions in the 1990s, while the MCG in Melbourne has hosted cricket crowds in excess of 90,000.
The Motera stadium is now officially the world’s largest cricket stadium, surpassing the Melbourne Cricket Ground which has a capacity of 1,00,024. The renovation work in the stadium started in December 2016 and was completed in February 2020. The estimated cost was Rs 800 crore.
Last but not the least, Indian skipper will also be hoping that this match turns out to be a memorable one for him as a batsman. His last international hundred also came in the Pink-ball Test at home (against Bangladesh in Kolkata in 2019). Kohli is an unusual territory because never ever had he played 34 innings without scoring a century in international cricket.