KOCHI: "I am surprised there were no games held here earlier," wondered India captain Virat Kohli after leading the Men in Blue to the T20I series win against New Zealand at the Sports Hub in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday. Indeed, that is a thought which has loitered the minds of sports enthusiasts in the state for long.
Before the third T20I, the 161-crore stadium built under a first-of-its-kind private-public partnership for the 2015 National Games had only hosted one international sporting event of note -- the 2015 SAFF Championship. Rain looked likely to dampen the spirits of the thousands who flocked the stadium. Though, it was anything but that as the cricketing world took notice.
“I think we were really happy to get a game as this crowd deserved to watch some action," said Kohli. "This stadium is beautiful, the outfield wonderful and the crowd made it special," the 29-year-old skipper added.
As incessant rain made played spoilsport to international cricket's return to the capital after 29 years, it was the stadium's SubAir drainage system and efforts of the ground staff that made at least an eigh-over-a-side contest possible. Kiwis skipper Kane Williamson for one was mightily impressed.
"It is a brilliant stadium by any standards in the world -- amazing stadium and yeah, a lot of credit goes to the groundstaff," the NZ captain waxed lyrical of the groundsmen who got the ground back in shape after the downpour. "You couldn't expect a perfect pitch with this weather. There was some moisture on the surface and it made the wicket a challenging one," Williamson added.
India coach Ravi Shastri, who captained India against West Indies in the last ODI in the city back in 1988, described the crowd as "sensational" on Twitter. "Well done boys at a class venue where groundstaff were brilliant and crowd sensation in size, colour and behaviour. Way to go Thiruvananthapuram," he tweeted.
Former cricketers also weighed in. "Love the spirit of the ground staff and the enthusiasm of the crowd," wrote former India star V V S Laxman. "My men of the match -- the crowd at Thiruvananthapuram. Full house. Waited patiently (for) hours. Take a bow," tweeter former India opening batsman Aakash Chopra.
Sanjay Manjrekar, who was on television assignment during the match, said he "loved the crowd" in the city. "Each and everyone clapped for the losing captain. Listened in rapt attention to all interviews," Manjrekar said. Meanwhile, cricket commentator and journalist Harsha Bhogle said: "Thiruvananthapuram provided a magnificent atmosphere for the game".
"The teams provided a wonderful short burst of cricket. Loved the energy of the ground staff, actually running to take the covers off ensuring that no extra time needed once the drizzle stops," Bhogle tweeted.