India has played three ODIs at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, two against Australia and one against South Africa, and ended up on the losing side on all three occasions © Getty Images

 

By Karthik Parimal

 

India will be seeking redemption after they were humbled recently by England in all three formats of the game. This time around, England will have its task cut out when it takes on Mahendra Singh Dhoni‘s men in the latter’s backyard in a five-match ODI series and a T20 scheduled begin on Friday, October 14. But most cricket lovers from India, and especially the ones from Hyderabad, will be aware that the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium, which plays host to the first match of the series, has rarely been a happy hunting ground for the home side.

 

Matches in Hyderabad were earlier played at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium (LB Stadium) before the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium came into existence. India’s record at the LB stadium was impressive. They won six of the eight ODIs played there and lost just one. It also played host to three Tests against New Zealand, of which India won one, lost one and drew the other. On the other hand, the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium hasn’t been quite fortunate for the home sides. Although the stadium is still in its early days, few international matches and plenty of domestic matches have seen the away teams triumph more often than not.

 

India played three ODIs at the new stadium, two against Australia and one against South Africa, and ended up on the losing side on all three occasions. The first match at this ground saw hosts India take on South Africa almost six years ago. India was reeling at 35 for five and recovered from the initial hiccup to post a decent 249 for nine. But the target was not daunting for the Proteas as they romped home in style. Two years later, they went down to the mighty Aussies by 47 runs, despite Yuvraj Singh‘s heroics. In 2009, despite chasing a mammoth 350 against Australia, India looked in control due to Sachin Tendulkar’s brilliance. However, it was the same old result – India going down yet again, this time by three runs.

 

The Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium has also hosted a Test match between India and New Zealand last November that ended in a tame draw.

 

This ground has been the home of Deccan Chargers (DC) that represents Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League (IPL) since its inception. DC has lost all but one game that was played at Hyderabad in the last four seasons. The Chargers, who ranked last among the eight teams in the first season of IPL, were crowned champions in the second edition that was hosted by South Africa. DC has only won one game of the many they played at home. Their jinx was broken against the Royal Challengers of Bangalore (RCB) during the fourth season.

 

Victory has evaded home teams in close contests on quite a few occasions at this venue. The clash between Deccan Chargers and Rajasthan Royals (RR) in the first edition of the IPL was one such match. Needing 17 to win of the last over, RR scraped past DC in a last-over thriller. The Champions League 2009 fixture between DC and Somerset too was a nail-baiting contest. Despite having a firm grip over the match, DC gave in to Somerset towards the end.

 

Also, the last ODI played at Hyderabad in 2009 was a high-scoring thriller between India and Australia. Batting first, Australia rode on Shaun Marsh’s maiden ton to post a humongous 350 for four. In reply, India got off to a fantastic start and looked close to pulling off an amazing win, thanks to Tendulkar’s magnificent 175 in just 141 balls. But that too wasn’t enough as India crumbled towards the end to concede defeat by a very narrow margin of three runs. Sadly, India will be without the services of Tendulkar for the upcoming series against England.

 

Yuvraj Singh, who has often entertained the Hyderabad crowd with his splendid strokeplay, will be missed this time around as he is nursing a broken finger. Of the five matches played at Hyderabad (factoring matches in both stadiums), Yuvraj has scored 320 runs at an average of 80.00. He became a regular feature in the Indian middle-order after he led his team to a thumping victory over Zimbabwe in 2002 at the LB stadium by scoring 80 of just 60 balls. Of the three matches he played at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, he slammed centuries in two of them. Even then, his 103 against South Africa in 2005 and 121 against Australia in 2007 went in vain as he failed to get support from the other batsmen on both counts.

 

Carrying the burden of expectations, India’s young brigades now have the chance to shine and carve a niche for themselves in the absence of several big names.

 

The Rajiv Gandhi Stadium may seem jinxed for the home team, but then India is quite capable of breaking the jinx. Let’s not forget that it was India who broke the jinx of a host nation not winning the World Cup.

 

(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. This 23 year old graduate student, pursuing his Masters in Engineering, could be an appropriate example of how the layers of what inspires, motivates and keeps one happy run deeply in our daily lives. He, unlike others, is not too disappointed about not making it big by playing for the country, but believes that he plays the sport every day with his heart by watching and writing on it)