The Indore crowd celebrating in their unique style during India versus South Africa ODI in 2015. Photo Courtesy: @patel_abhii on Twitter.
The Indore crowd celebrating in their unique style during India versus South Africa ODI in 2015. Photo Courtesy: @patel_abhii on Twitter.

Let me begin this with a very personal experience. A few years back when I started off as a correspondent with an IT magazine and website in Bengaluru, there were many days when I would struggle to make people recognise the place where I was from. Indore would heedlessly be pronounced down South as ‘indoor”, and I would struggle to find answers why was it so tough for people to pronounce it right? I would wonder why is my city not easily recognisable? But as the news came in on Thursday afternoon with the BCCI awarding Indore the right to host Test cricket, I can say those who still do not know it, can better check the map! Indore will host Test cricket now!

For once, I will not care if my city’s name is pronounced right or not, because I will rejoice, live this feeling of immense pride that Indore has finally got the right to host Test cricket. Because it has finally got something which it deserved, and yearned, for many years. India will be playing one of their three Tests against New Zealand later this year, at Indore, and it is a proud moment for the city’s natives, scattered around the world like me.

The love for cricket among the people in Indore — or Indoris as they are fondly called — is as good as it is in any other city. After all, the city gave India its first-ever Test captain, Col. CK Nayudu. It is also the birth place of greats like Syed Mushtaq Ali, Rahul Dravid, and Sandhya Agarwal — India’s former Women’s team captain.

The Vijay Balla (victory bat). Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
The Vijay Balla (victory bat). Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

When India won its first-ever series in England, the city had a giant cricket bat — ‘Vijay Balla’, or the Victory Bat — constructed in the team’s honour. The bat had the names of all its members inscribed in it and was inaugurated at the hands of then captain Ajit Wadekar. The city remained a hub for former India cricketers Narendra Hirwani, Amay Khurasiya and indomitable personalities in Indian cricket — such as Chandu Sarwate, Sanjay Jagdale, and Raj Singh Dungarpur, who all remain a part of its cricketing history.

To have Indore hosting Test cricket is of greater significance than anything else. For a small city that is loosely called ‘Mini-Bombay’ with its bustling crowd, with its delicious food, with its flirtations with various traditions and cultures, educational institutes and a hell lot more, it was important to make a mark in sports as well. Time and again it has produced champions, but to host them was something which it was always deprived of, and it is heartening to see the city finally getting its due.

From celebrating every single Indian win as a festival to flashing mobile torch lights during ODI being held in their backyard, there is something unique about the Indore crowd which no one from outside will ever understand, till he mixes in the crowd at Rajabada, or Chappan Dukaan, or the streets where hundreds of young men gather.

That Indore crowd is unique needs no more certification, as it was clear the moment when AB de Villiers praised it for being exceptionally passionate about their cricket. After their defeat to India, de Villiers said, “It was one of the best crowds I have ever played in front of. They helped their team get over the line.” ALSO READ: Indore crowd’s cheerful behaviour puts Cuttack incident behind, earns praise from AB de Villiers

De Villiers’ praise came after the Cuttack incident, where the crowd behaviour turned awry as they threw plastic bottlers and other materials on the field. If Cuttack had let India down, it was Indore that brought smiles back on the face of the cricketers.

Indore has had its embarrassing moments. The abandoned ODI between India and Sri Lanka in the 90s was perhaps one of the lowest points for the city — a blemish which it soon got rid of by becoming the venue where the great Sachin Tendulkar completed his 10,000 ODI runs.

The Indian cricket board deserves richest of praise for being daring enough to take Test cricket into the interiors, for taking cricket to people who love it equally as the others. At a time when cricket’s custodians, administrators, marketeers and publicists are struggling to fill in the stands during Tests, the BCCI has dared to take it to places that get to see international cricket once in a blue moon. Or even less than that.

One felt it was time that Indian cities that have a massive cricket following as well as tradition, like Indore, should have hosted one of the IPL teams when they were asked to move out of Maharashtra. After all, the tournament is meant to spread the game even further, and to have a few matches at such venues will only serve the purpose.

“Better late than never”, goes the saying. Indore should have got the Test status long time back, but perhaps the cricket administration was too conservative to take it to newer places. Indore deserves rich praise for finally attaining something very special in the world of cricket. There is still a lot of time left for the India versus New Zealand Test to happen at the Holkar Cricket Stadium — a place where I played many cricket matches while living the dream of becoming a cricketer back in the day. That I could not become one is another matter, but what is of greater importance that I and many like me — the mad cricket fans in and from Indore — celebrate this occasion.

(Devarchit Varma is senior writer with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)