|Green Park, Kanpur|
Green Park at Kanpur where the 1st cricket test match between New Zealand and India was played is being mentioned as one of the original test centres of India. This is not correct. The original test centres were only four – all in the four metros of Mumbai (then Bombay), Chennai (then Madras), Kolkata (then Calcutta) and Delhi (only if Delhi could be reckoned as a metro then). I distinctly remember in 1948 the touring West Indies team played five test matches in India at Brabourne Stadium, Bombay, Ferozeshah Kotla, Delhi, Eden Gardens, Calcutta, Chepauk, Madras and again at Brabourne Stadium Bombay. Bombay got two test matches, both were played at Brabourne Stadium for the simple reason that Wankhede Stadium had not been built till then. The second test too was allotted to Bombay, presumably because no other centre was available where a test could be played. Besides, Bombay used to be the headquarters of BCCI.
Green Park was nowhere in sight in the late 1940s and early 1950s. It was perhaps because of the efforts of Maharaj Kumar of Viziangaram, popularly known as Vizzy, that Kanpur became a venue. He used to reside in Benaras and when he became president of the Board from 1954-57 he swung it in favour of Kanpur. For a number of years Green Park used to have matting wickets – not the turf ones that were available in the four metros. In 1959, I remember, India won for the first time a test match against Australia and the venue was none other than Kanpur where for the first time a match was being played on a turf wicket. Jasu Patel, an off spinner took 14 Australian wickets in the match. Late Richie Benaud, who had captained the Aussie side, had described the Kanpur pitch as a mud heap – probably because it was a dusty turf.
Perhaps, Rajiv Shukla, the UP Cricket Association chief, got the match away to Kanpur. Actually, it should have been the privilege of Mumbai to host the 500th Test match and in that event it would have been appropriate to have it played at the Brabourne Stadium.
*Photo: from internet