The cricket (stadium) boom in India
Everybody is talking about India’s test cricket exploits these days. After defeating Australia 2-1 in the latest series, India is comfortably placed as the number one cricket team in International Cricket Council (ICC) test rankings. But there is another set of under-noticed numbers, which shows that India beats all test playing nations by a wide margin when it comes to test match venues.
Till date, India has hosted international test matches in as many as 22 test venues. Pakistan and West Indies are ranked second with 12 venues, while England and Australia—the two oldest test-playing teams—have 10 and 8 venues, respectively. Mint has used the ESPN Cricinfo database of 2,258 test matches (the India versus Australia test in Dharmasala being the latest match in this dataset) to calculate these numbers. Two grounds in one city, such as Lord’s and The Oval in London are counted separately in the database.
As is to be expected, proliferation in international test venues in India is a recent phenomenon. Since 2010, India has hosted international test matches in 16 venues. Three of them—Pune, Ranchi and Dharmasala—made their debut in the just-concluded series against Australia. In the previous three decades, the number was either 11 or 12. To avoid including venues that may no longer be in use, we look at the test venues that have hosted matches since 2000 while comparing the test-playing countries.
While India has more test venues compared to peers, the number of matches hosted by each venue is lower than in several other countries. In terms of the number of test matches hosted, Lord’s in London leads the chart with 133 tests. Chennai and Kolkata are best placed venues in India with ranks 22 and 23, respectively. England and Australia are far ahead of other cricket-playing nations in terms of the number of tests they have hosted domestically. England leads with 507 tests, followed by Australia with 420 tests. India is a distant third with 261 tests. All of the top five grounds which have hosted maximum number of test matches are in England and Australia.
A look at the number of test venues in each decade since the 1930s shows that the number of test venues saw a big spurt first in the 1980s in India and then, in the current decade, suggesting that World Cup victories and the proliferation of test venues may be closely linked. To be sure, the Indian Premium League (IPL) is also likely to have played a role in the construction of quality stadiums in the recent past. The stadiums at Ranchi and Dharmasala made their debuts in IPL before hosting an international match.
The recent increase in the number of test venues has come at a time when the Indian team has improved its test performance discernibly as the chart above shows. India’s win percentage in tests is the highest in this decade. While this correlation may not necessarily imply causation, both reflect the stupendous rise of cricket in the country.
One can only hope that inspiring performances by Indian sportspersons outside cricket also lead to the creation of better sporting infrastructure for non-cricket sports across the length and breadth of the country in the days to come.