THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: International cricket returns to Thiruvananthapuram after a 30-year-hiatus as the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on Tuesday announced India will play Sri Lanka in a Twenty20 International at the Greenfield International Stadium in Kariavattom here on December 20. The decision was taken during the cricket governing body's tours and fixtures committee meeting held in Kolkata. Kerala has hosted One Day International and Indian Premier League matches in Kochi, but the Sri Lanka match will be the first T20I to be played in the state.
The capital city was expecting the big announcement ever since the BCCI acting secretary Amitabh Choudhury promised the stadium will host an international fixture before the end of the calendar year during a visit to the stadium for inspection in May this year. "One of the three T20I matches in Sri Lanka's tour of India in November - December has been awarded to the Kerala Cricket Association (KCA). There will be pressure this time as the match will be hosted in a new stadium. It is time to prepare the venue well ahead of the match," said BCCI vice-president T C Mathew.
"KCA has become the first state association after Mumbai to have two international venues. We are confident that the game will be played in front of a full capacity crowd," said Mathew. It was in the January of 1988 that Thiruvananthapuram last witnessed international cricketing action when a visiting West Indies side boasting the likes of Viv Richards and Richie Richardson trounced a Ravi Shastri-led India by nine wickets in a 50-over match at the University Stadium. "This will be the first time a T20 International will be played in Kerala. So, we are definitely happy. Also, Thiruvananthapuram is going to host an international match after many years," said KCA secretary Jayesh George.
The city had also hosted Australia in 1984, but cricket moved to Kochi's Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium which hosted nine ODI matches between 1998 and 2014 with Australia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, England and West Indies all visiting. But with the KCA signing an 11-year MoU with the Kariavattom Sports Facilities Limited (KSFL), the operators of the Greenfield Stadium, last year and the Kochi stadium unavailable due to the 2017 FIFA Under-17 World Cup, Thiruvananthapuram was in line to host the match this season.
The R161-crore stadium was constructed on a public-private partnership model ahead of the 35th National Games the state hosted in 2015 and has previously hosted the 2015 SAFF football Championship. But this will be a bigger challenge, according to the organisers. "The stadium has so far only hosted age-level matches. But, we will conduct two of Kerala’s matches in the Ranji Trophy 2017-18 season at the stadium starting October, which will be the first major test for the venue," said Jayesh.
"It is a matter of great pride, but we will have to prepare really well for the smooth conduct of the match. We are planning to create a wicket similar to the one we used in St Xavier's College Ground, Thumba for the Delhi vs Jharkhand Ranji match last November which saw 1,300 plus runs in four days," said Vinod S Kumar, Thiruvananthapuram District Cricket Association secretary. Meanwhile, K N Ananthapadmanabhan, former Kerala cricketer, said that Thiruvananthapuram hosting a match of such significance will inspire budding cricketers from the city. "Going to a match at a stadium is a completely different experience to watching it on television," said the former Kerala captain.
"I advice all cricketers and their parents visit the stadium and feel the atmosphere of a big game. It can do wonders to youngsters. We can be proud the city is hosting a T20I after several years without quality action," said Ananthapadmanabhan, now a cricket umpire. KSFL director Anilkumar Pandala said he is confident the match will be a sellout. "When it comes to marketing the game, the BCCI is second to none. People do not just come to watch the game, but also to experience the ambience which will be there for this game," said Pandala. "This is a T20 game which will definitely attract people wherever it is played. It is great that after plenty of time waiting, something positive is happening at the stadium," said Pandala.
The First t20 match
Kerala has hosted One Day International and Indian Premier League matches in Kochi, but the Sri Lanka match will be the first T20I to be played in the state. The decision to host the match in the capital city was taken during the cricket governing body’s tours and fixtures committee meeting held in Kolkata