AHMEDABAD: President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday inaugurated the world's largest cricket arena -- the refurbished Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera -- a state-of-the-art facility which can accommodate an awe-inspiring 1.32 lakh spectators.
The President inaugurated the stadium in the presence of Home Minister Amit Shah and Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju among a host of other dignitaries.
It opens with the third Test between India and England, a day-night game from Wednesday, and will also host the fourth and final game of the series from March 4.
Spread over 63 acres, the stadium has been built at an estimated cost of Rs 800 crore and with a seating capacity for 1,32,000 spectators, it has surpassed the hallowed Melbourne Cricket Ground which can accommodate 90,000.
"The total area is equivalent to 32 Olympic size soccer fields put together," stated a note from the Press Information Bureau giving specifics of the enormous structure.
The facility, which was closed for renovation in 2015, was witness to some major milestones in Indian cricket in its previous avatar.
These included Sunil Gavaskar reaching the 10,000 runs mark in Test cricket against Pakistan in 1987 and Kapil Dev claiming his 432nd Test wicket to become the highest wicket-taker in the world in 1994, surpassing Sir Richard Hadlee.
Australian architect firm Populous, which designed the Melbourne Cricket Stadium among others, is the architect of the new stadium.
It has 11 pitches made of both red and black soil and is the only stadium in the world to have same soil surfaces for the main and practice pitches.
"As children, we used to dream about the world's largest stadium in India. And now as sports minister, my happiness knows no bounds that this has finally happened," said Rijiju at the inauguration. "It is one of the most modern sports facilities in the world," he added.
Players from both the India and England teams, who have been training here for the past few days, have expressed their admiration for what they have experienced at the arena.
The ground claims to have a drainage system which will take just 30 minutes from the time it stops raining to drain out the water.
Instead of high mast floodlights, the field of play has LED lights fixed along the perimeter of the roof providing shadow-less light -- a first of its kind arrangement in India.
This is the only cricket stadium in the world to have four dressing rooms for the players so that back-to-back games can be played on the same day.
It also has a cricket academy, indoor practice pitches, and two separate practice grounds with small pavilion area.
The President performed the ground-breaking ceremony for a The sports complex in the stadium for disciplines like football, hockey, basketball, kabbadi, boxing, and lawn tennis among others.