SIGNALLING CRICKET’S complete unlockdown, the BCCI will allow spectators in the stands for the third Test between India and England from February 24 to 28 at the refurbished Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium at Motera near Ahmedabad, The Indian Express has learnt.
This could possibly be the first time that the cricket board is opening the doors of a stadium for the public in an international game after the Covid outbreak early last year. The India-England series will start in Chennai on February 5 behind closed doors, and there is still no clarity on the presence of fans for the second Test at the same venue.
The pandemic had seen cricket take a break with the last home Test against Bangladesh in November 2019. The pink-ball day-night Test at Motera will also be the first international game at the new stadium where capacity has been increased to 1,10,000, making it the biggest in the world.
To mark the occasion, The Indian Express has learnt that the BCCI has extended invitations to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president J P Nadda and Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju. Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who is the Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA) president, is also likely to be present. The stadium will host the fourth and final Test of the series and five T20 games to follow. The GCA is also the home association of Shah’s son and BCCI secretary Jay Shah.
“As the seating capacity is more than a lakh, the GCA can easily accommodate 50 per cent crowds for the third and fourth Tests. The Government has allowed sports stadiums to run with 50 per cent capacity so it has been decided to allow fans for the matches in Ahmedabad. The media will also be able to cover the game from the stadium,” said a BCCI source.
If Modi arrives for the game, it will mark a return for him to the venue of the ‘Namaste Trump’ rally a year ago when the former United States president visited the country.