Explained: What’s in a (cricket stadium’s) name? Mostly politicians — and no cricketers

Written by Mihir Vasavda
, Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |

Updated: March 2, 2021 2:39:11 pm

Minutes before Virat Kohli & Co. took their positions on the field inside the world’s largest cricket stadium, it was announced that the venue had been renamed from Sardar Patel Stadium to Narendra Modi Stadium.

India’s Test against England is the first match at the brand new Motera, the name of the place, after it was refurbished and converted into a 110,000-seater facility, making it the biggest cricket ground in the world in terms of capacity.

Naming it after a politician was in line with a decades-old practice in Indian sport, especially cricket — to name stadiums after everyone but sportspersons.

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What does the Motera name change involve?

What used to be called the Sardar Patel Stadium will now be known as Narendra Modi Stadium. The ground-breaking ceremony for a sports complex — to be named Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Sports Complex — was also carried out. The complex will have 20 sports facilities, including those for football, hockey, basketball, kabbadi, boxing, and lawn tennis. The cricket stadium is part of the complex.

Home Minister Amit Shah said the cricket stadium was “Modiji’s dream project”. “We have decided to name it after the country’s Prime Minister. It was Modiji’s dream project,” Shah was quoted as saying by PTI after the inauguration.

President Ram Nath Kovind said: “This stadium was conceptualised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat. He was president of the Gujarat Cricket Association at that time.”

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Have there been instances in the past when stadiums were named after people during their lifetimes?

Yes. Mumbai’s Brabourne and Wankhede Stadiums were named after individuals who were alive at the time. The same is the case with Navi Mumbai’s D Y Patil Stadium, Bengaluru’s M Chinnaswamy Stadium, and Chennai’s M A Chidambaram Stadium.

Mohali’s PCA Stadium was renamed after former BCCI and Punjab Cricket Association president I S Bindra in 2015.

Are any cricket stadiums in India named after cricketers?

No. Not one cricket stadium, which has hosted first-class or international matches, is named after a cricketer. There are stadiums that honour politicians, industrialists, administrators, musicians, and even general managers of big corporates.

Two cricket stadiums, though, are named after hockey players — Captain Roop Singh Stadium in Gwalior, and Lucknow’s K D Singh Babu Stadium.

Who are the stadiums named after, then?

Nine stadiums are named after former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Eight of these stadiums — at New Delhi, Chennai, Kochi, Indore, Guwahati, Margao, Pune, and Ghaziabad — have hosted domestic and international cricket matches.

Three arenas each are named after Indira Gandhi (Guwahati, New Delhi and Vijayawada) and Rajiv Gandhi (Hyderabad, Dehradun and Kochi).

Two venues get their names from former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee (Nadaun and Lucknow); two were named after Sardar Patel too (Valsad and Ahmedabad, before the latter was renamed on Wednesday).

The Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in New Delhi was renamed Arun Jaitley Stadium in 2019. Kozhikode’s EMS Stadium is named after the communist leader and first Chief Minister of Kerala, EMS Namboodiripad.

There are venues named after individuals from other fields as well.

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Two hockey stadiums, however, honour Major Dhyan Chand. And a football stadium is named after former India captain Bhaichung Bhutia.

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