Summer is once again upon us, and for cricket tragic, that means one thing….it’s cricket season. Whether it’s the bash and dash of Twenty20, the bright colours and sunshine of the one-dayers, or the long-haul of a full Test match for the true devotees, there are some wonderful venues to take in the live spectacle of the bat and ball. Pull up stumps at one of these top grounds.
The Melbourne Cricket Ground is the largest cricket ground in not only Australia but the entire world, with a capacity nearing 100,000. This year will be the venue for the annual Boxing Day Test, with Australia hosting Sri Lanka. This year’s match offers fans travelling to Melbourne to see the world’s best batsman show his skills, with Sri Lankan Kumar Sangakkara holding the International Cricket Council Test ranking. For fans of the shorter versions of the game, the MCG will also host a Twenty20 match between Australia and Sri Lanka on the Australia Day public holiday, January 28, as well as one-day internationals with Australia playing Sri Lanka and the West Indies.
Cricket is the national sport of the islands that make up the West Indies, in the Caribbean, and the most famous home ground for playing the great game is Kensington Oval in Barbados. Situated in the capital Bridgetown, with a capacity of 28,000, Kensington is both the largest and oldest cricket ground in Barbados, dating all the way back to 1882. The people of the West Indies are passionate supporters of cricket, and the action at Kensington Oval never fails to deliver a great atmosphere, with bright colours, singing and music all part of the fun. The ground was also the home turf for some of the greatest-ever players, including the revered Sir Garfield Sobers, named as one of just five Cricketers of the Century in 2000, and who has been immortalised in statue form at the front of the venue. In 2013, the West Indies will play host to Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and Pakistan at Kensington Oval.
The Newlands Cricket Ground, in the South African city of Cape Town, has gained a reputation as being the most beautiful place to watch cricket in the entire world. With the unmistakable and distinctive Devils Peak and Table Mountains sitting almost directly in the background of the batting and bowling action, it’s not hard to see why. No matter how exciting (or otherwise), the happenings on the playing field, the sight of the deep red and orange of the African sun as it sets behind the stadium, is a truly unforgettable sight.
Lord’s is the spiritual home of cricket, the place where the great game began. Located in central London, the venue remains one of the most iconic cricket stadiums in the world, and in 2013 will play host to the second Ashes Test between Australia and England. Lord’s remains the home of London’s Marylebone Cricket Club, which is the guardian of both the Laws and Spirit of Cricket, reinforcing the ground’s hallowed standing amongst the venues of the world. The MCC Cricket Academy, the Middlesex County Cricket Club, the England and Wales Cricket Board and the European Cricket Council, are also hosted by Lord’s. For the dedicated fans, there’s also the MCC Museum, with many wonderful historical exhibits including the prestigious Ashes urn. Be sure to head to the Lord’s Shop on your way home, for a unique souvenir of your visit, or to pick up some state-of-the-art cricket equipment.
The nation of India loves its cricket with an intensity and devotion quite unlike any other country in the entire world. Such is the devotion of Indian cricket fans, the international game now generates the vast amount of its revenue from India alone, including the rich Twenty20 Champions League tournament. Not surprisingly, there are a vast number of world-class cricket venues all over India, each with an intense, passionate live atmosphere, but the most famous of all stadiums is Eden Gardens, in the city of Kolkata. It’s the second biggest ground in the world, trailing only the MCG in Australia, seating more than 90,000 bellowing fans, creating a deafening roar throughout entire matches. Because of this magical atmosphere, it’s said that Eden Gardens is up there with the sacred Lord’s as the ground that professional cricketers most aspire to play on, even though the wicket, traditionally friendly to spin bowlers, can often result in one-sided matches.
If there was a ground in the world to give Newlands a run for its money as a truly awe-inspiring place to watch the beautiful game of cricket, it would certainly be the Galle International Stadium. Situated in the Sri Lankan city of the same name, Galle Stadium is surrounded on both sides by the peaceful blue-turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. Other majestic sights nearby include the centuries-old Galle Fort, which is well worth a closer look during the drinks break, for panoramic views over the greens of the turf. Having only recently been brought up to international standards, Galle retains a fun-loving, friendly feel, thanks to the good-natured local crowds. After a tough few days of cricket spectating, sure to set aside a few extra leisure days, and relax on the sands of some of Sri Lanka’s top beaches, right on the stadium’s doorstep.