Probably, the greatest insult to the former finance minister and one of the political stalwarts of the country is the infrastructure of the stadium named after him.
Yes, the Arun Jaitley Stadium, formerly known as the Feroz Shah Kotla Ground, has an elaborate cricketing history, starting in 1883, but perhaps, it is time the Delhi District Cricket Association (DDCA) made some architectural calls that are more aligned to the contemporary world.
This was the author's second visit to the stadium inside a year. Few things stand out, explicitly.
One, the entrances to the majority of the stands are quite narrow and a security nightmare.
During the recent T20 international between South Africa and India, the narrow lane behind the Mohinder Amarnath Stand (East Stand) had a stampede like situation, given the poor security and access arrangements.
Two, the stands are outdated in design.
One can't help but be repelled by the main stand, named after Gautam Gambhir. The structure of the stand, it appears, is imported from another century, and the billboards are an eyesore.
Even if the DDCA could build this stand again from the scratch, they'd have a decent stadium.
Even the two hill stands, alongside the Old Clubhouse stand, that house the commentators and broadcasters, are outdated in design. Neither do they have the required elevation, nor do they have the park-like arrangements for a sunny day in winters, as is the case with stands in New Zealand and South Africa.
Instead, both these stands, priced high, resemble the setup in a banquet hall marriage with rushed preparations. Almost an abomination for the stadium in the national capital.
Even the other two stands, housing majority of the crowd, are outdated in design, and are barely functional. Named after the two greats, Bishan Singh Bedi and Mohinder Amarnath, these stands do not offer the best view even with the elevation, thanks to the countless pillars and old building design.
When compared to what the stands look like in Wankhede, Eden Gardens, or the newly built Narendra Modi stadium, in terms of viewing and access, the ones in Kotla warrant an urgent upgrade.
Perhaps, it is time for the DDCA to consider phase-wise redevelopment of the stadium, starting with the Gautam Gambhir stand.
With all its history, it would be unfair to ask for the decommissioning of the stadium when it comes to international encounters, but until when would the crowd want to endure this?
However, in defense of the Arun Jaitley Stadium, one must admit that the Punjab Cricket Association stadium in Mohali is far worse, both in terms of access and design, and for all the right reasons, it is being replaced with the New Chandigarh stadium, set to host international games as early as 2024.
The ones filled with nostalgia argue against modern designs, saying that it robs the venue of its uniqueness and they are partially right. However, going forward, the unique character of any ground, anywhere in India, must be complemented with upgraded infrastructure.
It is only in India, perhaps, where you get a full house for Test Cricket, and therefore, no excuse for the state boards to not better their infrastructure.
The critics online are not wrong. Maybe this is indeed the ugliest looking cricket stadium in India.
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