Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Trump-opened India cricket stadium empty

Trump-opened India cricket stadium empty

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
US President Donald Trump recently inaugurated the world’s largest cricket stadium. AFP

Trump-opened India cricket stadium empty

There is no larger symbol of the global sports shutdown than cricket’s 110,000-seater Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad, India opened by US President Donald Trump, but yet to see a ball bowled.

India’s newest and the world’s biggest cricket stadium lies empty because of the coronavirus pandemic. Where there should be the sound of leather on willow and the roar of the crowd, there is only silence.

Just a few weeks ago, it had been packed to capacity as Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stood side-by-side in a show of pomp and ceremony for the February 24 inauguration.

Eclipsing Australia’s 100,000-capacity Melbourne Cricket Ground, it was rumoured to be in line to host the final of this year’s Indian Premier League, the world’s richest Twenty20 tournament, watched by millions worldwide.

But then came Covid-19. The pandemic has brought the sporting world to a grinding halt with massive events including the Tokyo Olympics, football’s European Championships, golf and tennis majors, and the glitzy IPL postponed.

“There was hardly any time between the Trump event and the pandemic,” a senior Gujarat Cricket Association official told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding that once cricket resumes, the stadium could be ready “in double-quick time”.

“Just five per cent work is remaining and it just needs the finishing touches,” the official said.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has pushed back the IPL from its original start date of March 29 to April 15, but with the number of coronavirus cases in India exceeding 5,000 and still rising, pressure is growing for it to be shifted again, truncated or scrapped.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad, India has yet to see a ball bowled. AFP

Unobstructed views

The $100-million, circular venue, promises unobstructed views and has state-of-the-art facilities including an Olympic-sized swimming pool as part of a multi-sports complex.

Next door, a refurbished venue on the site of the former 49,000-capacity Motera Stadium will serve as a venue for cricket, football and hockey.

Critics have charged that it is another “white elephant” vanity project in Modi’s home state, following the completion of the world’s largest statue there in 2018 – also dedicated to independence hero Sardar Patel.

The giant Statue of Unity measures 182m – twice the height of New York’s Statue of Liberty.

Modi was Gujarat chief minister for 13 years until 2014, and revamping the former Motera stadium had long been a pet project.

Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah, a close ally, headed the Gujarat Cricket Association until last year and his son Jay Shah is the secretary of the BCCI, the world’s richest and most powerful cricket board.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The stadium was packed to capacity just weeks ago when the US President visited. AFP

Despite cricket being wildly popular in India, domestic first class matches – and even some international Test matches – are often played to near-empty stadiums.

The only matches guaranteed to attract big crowds are IPL games and one-day internationals – and even then it depends on the quality of the opposition.

The nation of 1.3 billion people already has more than a dozen stadiums capable of hosting international cricket, although in the off-season they can be used for other events.

“You are left wondering whether it is a rock concert venue, [or] is it a cricket stadium?” ESPNcricinfo senior editor Sharda Ugra said.

“I would have hoped that there would have been some analysis on the kind of grounds that India needs now.

“We have a lot of these giant grounds in which you have one international match in two years.”


  • Thailand offers Covid-19 funding

    The Royal Embassy of Thailand contributed two million baht ($62,765) to Cambodia’s fight against Covid-19 on Wednesday, as the countries celebrated 70 years of diplomatic relations. The donation was presented by Thailand’s Ambassador to Cambodia Panyarak Poolthup to Prime Minister Hun Sen at a meeting

  • Crowded prisons will set free 10,000 inmates

    Close to 10,000 prisoners will be freed as part of the country’s anti-prison overcrowding campaign, Minister of Interior Sar Kheng announced on Wednesday. The bulk of the inmates have mostly served their sentences and will continue to be monitored by local authorities after their release

  • Sanctuary head sued for not stopping forest occupations

    Four Bunong and an Adhoc official filed a joint lawsuit against Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary head Prum Vibol Ratanak at the Mondulkiri Provincial Court for failing to stop illegal land occupation and the buying and selling of forest land. Vibol Ratanak denies the allegations against

  • US and Cambodia talk cybersecurity ongoing assistance

    US Ambassador Patrick Murphy met with Minister of Interior Sar Kheng on Wednesday to discuss bilateral collaboration including on issues of civil society organisations and democracy in Cambodia. But cybercrime seemed to be the prevailing topic at the meeting. Murphy posted on Twitter: “Productive meeting

  • UN: Don’t let patent rows hamper virus vaccine

    The UN patent agency has hailed the push to create a coronavirus vaccine and make it globally available but warned against allowing copyright rows to overshadow and delay the process. “What we need in the first place here is innovation,” said Francis Gurry, the head

  • ‘Be vigilant on human trafficking’

    Minister of Interior Sar Kheng on Wednesday urged provincial authorities along the border to remain vigilant against the transportation of Cambodian migrant workers into Thailand. Speaking during an annual meeting of the National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT), he said despite the closure of the