While the imposing Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium is all set to host Kochi’s eighth One-day International on January 15, cricket lovers across the state are eagerly waiting to see some magical moments of thrill, excitement, joy and despair, which have made the matches held here memorable over the past 15 years.
The first-ever ODI at the J N Stadium was staged on April 1, 1998. India, led by Mohammed Azharuddin, faced a tough challenge from Steve Waugh’s mighty Australians but the home team emerged triumphant in the high-octane clash. Ajay Jadeja’s unbeaten century (105 from 109 balls) helped India pile up a competitive total of 309 for 5. The real star of the match, though, was Little Master Sachin Tendulkar who came up with his best bowling performance, claiming 5 wickets for 32 runs.
The second match, which pitted India against South Africa, was another high-scoring game. But it will be remembered for some decisions taken by the then South African captain, the late Hansie Cronje.
Batting first, SA posted a challenging total of 301 for 3 with the help of Gary Kirsten’s century. India replied strongly with Ajay Jadeja’s man of the match innings of 92. But the decisions taken by Cronje, when India were reeling at 180 for 5 in 33 overs, backfired. Cronje introduced Derek Crookes in the late overs with Jadeja scoring briskly against the offie. Interestingly, pacers like Jacques Kallis and Nantie Hayward were yet to finish their quota of 10 overs but Cronje continued with spinners raising some eyebrows.
Zim’s Day Out
The third match, in March 2002, produced an unexpected result. India, taking on minnows Zimbabwe, was meant to be a run feast. Unfortunately, the Indian batting under Sourav Ganguly collapsed and only put up a meager total of 191 in 48 overs, with medium pacer Douglas Hondo registering his career-best figures of 4 for 37.
Zimbabwe chased the score effortlessly with six wickets remaining, Alistair Campbell top-scoring with 71.
Agitated spectators soon burned the Indian team in effigy.
Tendulkar, the Bowler to the Fore
Though the venue will not see the Master Blaster in the Indian Blue anymore, Kochi will remember him more for his bowling heroics than his batting. The way he bamboozled the skilful Aussies with perfectly pitched leg-spin bowling underlined the genius of the little man as a cricketer. Even the legendary leg-spinner Shane Warne had no clue to a googly from Sachin, falling leg before wicket shaping for a cut. Seven years later, in the fourth ODI here, he proved that Kochi is his favourite bowling turf by recording his second five wicket-haul, against arch-rivals Pakistan. Bowling more off-spinners this time, Sachin claimed 5 for 50, helping India win by 87 runs.
Kochi, Thy Name is Humidity
Kochi is generally a humid venue and the man who really felt the heat of the City was none other than the Wall. Rahul Dravid who opened the innings against England in the April 6, 2006. India was chasing the target of 237 set by England. Dravid, the then captain, who faced 73 balls en-route his 65, was dehydrated to such an extend that he could hardly run. Indian won the match by 4 wickets.
After another encounter, the super-fit Robin Singh was lighter by a kilogram. Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja regularly wore wet scarfs around their necks to absorb some of the heat. That players known for their fitness were at the receiving end proves how just how sapping a cricket match at the JN Stadium can be.
The match between India and Australia played on October 2, 2007 will be known for the verbal encounters between Australian batsmen Mathew Hayden and Andrew Symonds had with Indian pacer S Sreesanth. Playing on his home ground, Sreesanth was in full throttle but was punished by hard-hitting opener Hayden, leading to a cold glare and verbal spat between the two.
Later, when Symonds came out to bat, the ‘word play’ continued. However, Sreesanth managed to claim Symonds’ wicket, pouching a skier himself after deceiving the aggressive right-hander with a slower one. Then came the famous roaring send-off from Sreesanth which will be remembered by many for years to come. Though Sree picked up three wickets, India lost the match by 84 runs.