Hyderabad Cricket Association will host a World Cup match after a gap of 27 years. The last World Cup match in the city was when West Indies took on Zimbabwe at the floodlit Lal Bahadur Stadium.
For a long time, LB Stadium, or Fateh Maidan as it was more popularly called, was the main hub of cricketing activity even with the HCA office located on the premises.
But, the construction of the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium at Uppal, which was then on the outskirts of the city, has changed the contours of hosting national and international matches in terms of world-class facilities for the players, officials and the spectators.
Over the years, it has emerged as one of the best playfields, especially the playing area that matches the best across the country. So much so that the groundstaff, first mentored by ‘Pipe’ Gopal and later headed by the BCCI curator Y.L. Chandrasekhar, has won ‘The Best Curator’ award twice in the high-profile IPL.
For the record, Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, which was match-ready in 2006, hosted five Tests, seven ODIs and three T20Is, besides the finals of IPL 2017 and 2019.
K. Durga Prasad, the retired IPS officer who is assisting the Supreme Court-appointed Single Judge Justice (Retd) Avula Nageswara Rao to run the administration of HCA till the “impasse is resolved in the Association,” is leaving no stone unturned in making sure that the venue should not only be the most player-friendly but also spectator-friendly.
“We have initiated a lot of measures to give the Stadium a new look for the World Cup matches,” he said.
“The HCA has sought BCCI’s assistance to renovate the 40,000-capacity stadium. The major subjects include canopies, elevators, giant scoreboards, chairs and new floodlights. BCCI has in principle agreed to execute it from their end and debit it from funds due to HCA,” Prasad said.
Work is underway at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Hyderabad ahead of the 2023 ODI World Cup.
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“We are also ensuring that all sewerage lines in and around the stadium are properly maintained to avoid any inconvenience. Repair works are in full swing to plug any loopholes,” he said.
Prasad also stressed the need to address the grievances of the paying fans. “They should not be deprived of basic amenities, particularly the washrooms and drinking water. We have already ensured 40 cool water facilities in and around the stadium for the IPL,” the top official said.
“Efforts are on to replace most of the chairs in the stands before the World Cup starts and the present floodlights will be changed to LED lights and there will be new screens also,” he said.
“A new chiller plant, which basically regulates the comfort levels of any indoor environment, will be in place. The old elevators will be replaced with new ones. We have briefed the BCCI about the requirements long back and works are in progress swiftly,” Prasad said.
One quick look at the venue and it’s clear that the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium will offer a totally refreshing experience not just for the players and officials but also for the spectators.
Capacity: Though the initial projected capacity was 55,000, it eventually can accommodate 40,000 on match days. Even according to Justice Lodha guidelines, 10 per cent of the total number of seats would be allocated as complimentaries, which includes the affiliated clubs of HCA, all Government agencies including Police, GHMC, TSSPDCL etc.
Generally, the tickets sale will be online and the physical tickets are collected at some designated points such as Gymkhana Ground, LB Stadium and other prominent destinations across the city.
The venue boasts of truly international standard facilities as there are in all 17 nets including two astro-turf wickets.
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Hospitality boxes: There are about 60 corporate boxes with a seating capacity of about 25 each. They are mainly on the Southern and Northern blocks of the Stadium.
The entrance to the first floor of the Corporate boxes has picture frames of some of the greatest names the game has ever seen including quite a few from the city, such as Ghulam Ahmed, ‘Tiger’ Pataudi, Abbas Ali Baig, M.L. Jaisimha, Kenny Jayathilal, M.V. Narasimha Rao, Mohd Azharuddin, V.V.S. Laxman, S.L. Venkatapathi Raju, Pragyan Ojha to name a few.
And also some frames which revive nostalgic memories — like the one of the 1983 World Cup winning team, the famed spin quartet of Bishen Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna, B.S. Chandrasekhar and S. Venkataraghavan.
Practice facilities: By all means, this venue can boast of truly international standard facilities as there are in all 17 nets including two astro-turf wickets. One set of ‘nets’ is floodlit and efforts are on to get the other set floodlit too. All training sessions will be in these nets that are near the main entrance of the main stadium complex.
The canopy cover that was ripped off during heavy rains a couple of years ago was completely restored at the Southern Grand Stand and efforts are on, racing against time, to have the cover on all stands.
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Even the Gymkhana Ground at Secunderabad is being spruced up for the second time after more than two decades to be on stand-by as a practice facility for the teams arriving for the warm-up and the three league games of the World Cup.
Pitches: In all, there will be six strips. Traditionally, they have been batter friendly over the years. And, if the last IPL when seven home games were played here was any indication, they may not be different for the World Cup games too.
Curator Chandrasekhar and his groundstaff have earned the reputation of being one of the best, and some of the cricketing greats who visited the venue echoed similar opinions.
Drainage and outfield: The venue has in place one of the best drainage systems, which ensures that even after heavy rains, there will not be too much of a delay in resumption of play as the sub-soil pipeline system is directly connected to the moat encircling the entire playing area. “For the ground, we are getting a total set of new machines from super soppers and rollers to cutters. Everything is brand new, and this stadium which for a long time lacked good equipment, is now 100 per cent ready.”
Entry points: There are 11 Outer Gates and 15 entry points through inner Gates of A, B, C,D and E, all of which have turnstiles to screen the valid ticket-holders.
Gate No. 1 is reserved for players, officials and the VVIPs with the Southern Grandstand hosting most of the dressing rooms with ultra-modern facilities and the media box that can accommodate about 100 personnel covering the match, with dedicated internet connection in place. The Northern Stand has the TV commentators box and corporate boxes.
Dressing rooms: The dressing rooms are fully equipped and have state-of-the-art facilities. “From big televisions to ice bath facilities, everything is in place and we have also purchased a brand new ice cube making machine. So there is nothing that is going to be in shortage or missed out,” said Prasad.
Parking and transport: The Hyderabad Metro Station is at a walkable distance from the Stadium and is one of the preferred modes of transport, with the authorities always making it a point to run special trains during match days.
There are two parking areas close to the main entrance of the stadium, where most of the officials and VIPs are given preference, while the other one is behind the Northern Stand which in a way is a first-come first-served basis.
There will be parking slots on the approach road for two-wheelers and also at NGRI, Little Flower College and near Genpact. However, the main irritant when it comes to parking is that most of the area is ‘occupied’ by the police vehicles even though some are designated for other segments like media and this has always been a major issue.
In case of emergency: Round-the-clock ambulances with full medical services are always available at the stadium. Plans are afoot to set up medical facilities at each of the entry points of the stands too. Washrooms are available on all sides of the stadium in each and every stand.
Drinking water: Originally 25 taps were installed around the stadium to supply drinking water but subsequently when some raised serious doubts about the quality of the water, free drinking water in sachets is being distributed for all matches
Roofing: The canopy cover that was ripped off during heavy rains a couple of years ago was completely restored at the Southern Grand Stand and efforts are on, racing against time, to have the cover on all stands.
“The canopy in the southern camp is almost complete,” says Prasad. “On the east and west wings, work is going on in full swing, and the stadium will have a much better view once the work is complete. We wanted to change the entire seating with tip-up seats like the ones you find in the VIP enclosures in most of the stadiums and give that experience to all the spectators.”
“But for the World Cup, we will be able to do only half of it because we are not touching the east and west galleries where the work is still happening and also in the north and south top galleries as the canopy work is going on. But these will be complete immediately after the World Cup. A new stadium with canopy on all sides will be ready soon.”