x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Socialising as vital as the sport

second home Indian sporting arenas are mostly dull slabs of concrete with no aesthetic sense and rugged exteriors.

Indian sporting arenas are mostly dull slabs of concrete with no aesthetic sense and rugged exteriors. By the turn of the decade, most of the country's cricket and football grounds were only just about starting to ensure that their uneven patches of brown were replaced by green grass. When I entered the Punjab Cricket Stadium at Mohali (Punjab) in 2003, it was the lush green outfield that struck me.

But my brain tried to convince me that what the eyes were seeing was just the effect of unseasonal rains. The multi-coloured seats were also shrugged off as a stadium that had just been washed wash prior to my arrival. During the five days of the Test match, a knowledgeable crowd added life to the colourful and modern picture . Unlike other grounds, especially the new shiny yet souless identikit arenas that are appearing round the world, the Mohali Stadium has history and character.

The main building houses rare pictures and memorabilia from Indian cricket. From the days of Vijay Merchant and Vijay Hazare to the most recent matches, all memorable moments are caught on camera with a sense of history. Then there is lively music that the state of Punjab is famous for. The Bhangra pop gives you the feel of being at a carnival where even the fairweather fan, without much knowledge about a straight drive or a chinaman, can put up their feet and relax.

More importantly, the happy-go-lucky locals enjoy the game in the right spirit. Probably the only ground in India where you can enjoy a drink during matches, cricket games serve as not just sporting encounters, but also as an opportunity to meet and enjoy a good social evening. - Kumar Shyam