Feroz Shah Kotla or Arun Jaitley Stadium: What’s in a name?
The Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi is not known for its looks. © BCCI

History is littered with instance of sporting stadiums being named after people and geographic locations, which is why when the Delhi & Districts Cricket Association (DDCA) this week announced that it had decided to rename the Feroz Shah Kotla as the Arun Jaitley Stadium in remembrance of the former Union Finance Minister who died last week, it was not entirely surprising.

What did raise eyebrows, however, is when the DDCA put out a second tweet clarifying that Delhi’s iconic cricket ground – the second oldest in India – would continue to be called the Feroz Shah Kotla but that the stadium would be known as the Arun Jaitley Stadium.

The fact is, the stadium was never called the Feroz Shah Kotla.

The Kotla, as it is commonly known, gets its name from its geographical location, the 14th century monument known as the Feroz Shah Kotla which was the idea of Sultan Feroz Shah Tughlaq to house his version of Delhi city called Ferozabad. The word kotla means citadel or fortress.

(READ: BCCI condoles passing away of senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley)

On Twitter, news of the DDCA naming the stadium as the Arun Jaitley Stadium drew varied responses.

This is not the first cricket stadium in India to have a politician’s name attached to it. There are two stadiums named after deceased Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, in Hyderabad and Dehradun, both of which have hosted Tests, ODIs and T20Is. Vijaywada has a stadium named after Indira Gandhi, Ahmedabad has two grounds named after Sardar Vallabhai Patel and there seven stadiums across India in honour of Jawaharlal Nehru, the nation’s first Prime Minister.

In addition, there is the Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium in Hyderabad, the Madhavrao Scindia Cricket Ground in Rajkot, the Molana Azad Stadium in Jammu and the YS Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium in Visakhapatnam. And in 2018, Lucknow’s Ekana International Cricket Stadium was rechristened as the Bharat Ratna Atal Bihari Vajpayee International Cricket Stadium in honour of the late former Prime Minister of India.

Beyond the naming or renaming of cricket stadiums in remembrance of deceased politicians, traditionalists are known to decry stadiums naming right-deals as crass commercialisation, whereas owners defend such moves as the sources of millions in revenue for teams and associations.

It is not unusual in today’s cricket landscape to see nondescript sponsorship monikers tagged onto international cricket grounds: Kia Oval, Emirates Old Trafford, Emirates Durham International Cricket Ground, Emerald Headingley Cricket Stadium, the Ageas Bowl, Centurion’s SuperSport Park, Sahara Stadium Kingsmead, BIDVest Wanderers Stadium, Perth’s Optus Stadium, Blundstone Arena in Hobart and Wellington’s Westpac Stadium are a few such.

This trend has not yet caught on in India, but is it long before we see stadiums with names such as Reliance, HERO or Birla before them?