Uppal Cricket Stadium, Hyderabad
Jagan Mohan Rao, recently elected president of the Hyderabad Cricket Association, aims to enhance the spectator experience as the Uppal Stadium gets ready for India vs England series opener.
Much like the ahead of the World Cup 2023, The Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Uppal is buzzing with activity in preparation for the Test series opener between India and England. New canopies have been installed above the left block of the spectator’s stands – which was still under construction for the World Cup, patchwork and beautification of the stands are still ongoing, and new seats with new sponsors have been put up as the Hyderabad readies itself for its first big-ticket event after the much talked about Hyderabad Cricket Association elections.
Jagan Mohan Rao of the ‘United Members of HCA was elected president in October with hopes of turning a new leaf for the association which for long had been in turmoil of sorts following allegations of irregularities and corruption under the former president, ex-India captain Mohammad Azharuddin.
“This is the first time for me. I’m learning many things because I elected two months back only,” Rao tells CricketNext days two removed from the start of the much-anticipated series. Rao may be new to this post but has ample experience at this level having been secretary general and president of the National Handball Association and Handball Federation of India.
And he knows the biggest challenge for him is to make the crowd experience in Hyderabad better. From Parking issues outside the venue to seepage lack of basic amenities was one of the major hurdles for the spectators who were here for the three World Cup 2023 games in the first week of October last year.
“Uppal stadium the biggest challenge is the parking. We have very little space. I am a little bit worried about the parking places. We have been searching for other places also. The washrooms also, were made 20 years ago, right? So, the renovation process is done going on. But it’s not yet completed.”
By his admission though, Rao is aiming for the work to be done by the time IPL 2024 comes around.
Large Crowd Expected
For the World Cup games, the crowd response was quite lukewarm partly due to Hyderabad being one of those rare venues India did not travel to for their campaign, but Rao is hopeful that this time around it will be different. “We crossed around 35 – 40,000 [during the World Cup]. This is a big number, seriously. And we are expecting more numbers within three days [of the Test match]. Surprisingly, there are quite a lot of travelling English fan contingent who are coming here to watch the game. Around thousand plus foreigners are here for the Test match.
Around 26,000 tickets have already been sold for the 1st Test and as per Rao, every day 6000 tickets will be given to school children to attend the games while on 26th January Jawan of the Indian army can come watch the game for free with their families.
A Sporting Track
For the last few years, one major talking point whenever India hosts a Test series is about the pitch and with English media already in attack mode over the possible raging turners that their ‘Bazball’ers will come up with the focus will be on the 22-year strip come match day. But Rao assures it will be a sporting track and hopes the game goes the full distance, i.e. five days, but with a result.
“Look, we have got appreciation from many places. This track got the number one pitch ranking not so long ago. We are expecting a five-day match. I can assure you four days it will and we will get a result. Whenever India has played here almost all the matches got to the fifth day,” adds Rao.
India has played five Tests here at this venue and out of that two have gone the full distance of five days, two have ended in four while the last Test played here – vs Windies – was wrapped up in three days with a 10-wicket Indian victory. India has not lost at this venue as of yet with four wins and the only draw coming in 2010 – the first game here – courtesy of a whirlwind 225 by none other than the current England coach Brendon McCullum.
However, historically this venue has assisted spinners with Ravichandran Ashwin leading the wicket-taking charts here with 27 wickets at a whopping average of 16/03, followed by Ravindra Jadeja (15). Only Umesh Yadav has picked over 10 wickets among pacers, in his three matches here – 10 of those coming in a single game vs Windies in 2018.