Cricket - India's national religion. Every Indian can tell you about the World Cup victories in 1983 and 2011, about their favourite IPL team, about the 2003 final versus Australia, or about their opinion on the many different controversies surrounding the sport. Without any statistical enquiry Cricket can easily be declared as the most popular in the country. From gully cricket in childhood to being glued in front of television screens with families or friends or even strangers, cricket forms a huge part in the life of almost all Indians, and is perhaps the one thing that unites this diverse country like no other. Cricket might be considered a gentleman's game, but in India, it is far more than that. It is no surprise that in the country where Sachin Tendulkar is often revered as a God there is no dearth of pilgrimage spots where our Gods tend to loiter. These pilgrimage spots, our cricket stadiums, have their own history and their own stories to tell, many so dramatic that they would put any Bollywood movie to shame. Be it World Cup matches, deadly rivalries, controversial decisions, last ball wins, IPL home teams, or thrilling Test matches, the stadiums on this list have seen it all, and the passionate crowds are a testament to their legend. So, here are the best stadiums one can visit to best experience the fanaticism that is cricket in India.
1. Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
This Wankhede Stadium of Mumbai has a capacity of 33,108, and is home to the Mumbai Indians IPL team. Famously a pitch which produces a lot of runs, Wankhede has been witness to some of the most high profile matches in the game, and a couple of those matches have cemented its stop in every Indian cricket lover's heart. The most memorable of those matches was in 2011, when India defeated Sri Lanka in the World Cup finals to become the world champions for the second time. It has also been witness to Sachin Tendulkar's last ever cricket match, and Ravi Shastri's six sixes in an over. Every fan who enjoys watching fast paced matches with lots of runs would love to visit this stadium, and the atmosphere, as is usual for Mumbai, is always exhilarating. Lovers of thrill and cricket should definitely not miss this one. For a comfortable experience on your visit Wankhende Stadium book a hotel in Colaba.
2. Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium, Dharamsala
The Dharamsala Stadium has a capacity of 23,000 people, and is home to the Himachal Pradesh Ranji Trophy team. For some matches, it also served as the home ground of the IPL team Kings XI Punjab. Dharamsala has witnessed some important matches both nationally and internationally, most notably some matches in the ICC T20 World Cup 2016. But most of all, this ground is famous for the picturesque venue, being cradled by snow capped peaks of the Himalayan mountains. At an altitude of 1,457 m above the sea level, Dharamsala is the highest cricket stadium in the entire world. Visiting Dharamsala is an unforgettable experience as much for the view as for the cricket, the mesmerising combination of the two simply cannot be missed!
3. Eden Gardens, Kolkata
The second largest cricket stadium of the country with a capacity of 80,000, Eden Gardens is often referred to as the Mecca of Indian Cricket. It is widely regarded as one of the most iconic cricket stadiums in the world, also being the third largest stadium worldwide. This stadium was built in 1864, making it the oldest stadium of India. Eden Gardens is renowned for its atmosphere, with many players naming it one of their favourite grounds to play on. Such is its fame, it hosted the World Cup final in 1987, the T20 World Cup final in 2016, and has hosted many other important matches in international cricket. The IPL team Kolkata Knight Riders calls Eden Gardens its home, with the Kolkata crowd turning up to cheer for its home team in every match just like it turns up in international matches every time. Eden is witness to many historic moments, like Sachin Tendulkar's 10,000th run in Test Cricket, Rohit Sharma's record breaking ODI score of 264, or the famous Laxman-Dravid partnership of 376 runs. On the other hand, there have been instances of the crowd rioting, like in 1999 during a match between India and Pakistan. Whatever the situation, the Eden crowd is known for its passion, perfectly matching the electrifying atmosphere of the ground, and a match in this stadium is an experience any cricket fan would remember. If you ever get a chance to be one of these 80,000 passionate fans watching a game of cricket on your visit to Kolkata, take that opportunity in a heartbeat. Doing so, don't forget to book a room at one of dayuse hotels or hotels on an hourly basis near eden gardens, so you don't have to travel much.
4. Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, Mohali
The Inderjit Singh Bindra stadium in Mohali seats 26,950, and is home to the IPL team Kings XI Punjab. It has been witness to some noteworthy matches, including one of the semi final matches of the 1996 World Cup and the semi final between India and Pakistan in the 2011 World Cup. It has also been one of the host venues of the 2016 T20 World Cup. The Mohali pitch is one of the greenest in India, and that allows for pace bowlers to have their say early on in the match while favouring spin bowling later on. This makes for matches with large targets and nail biting finishes, the trademark of the stadium! Perfectly complementing the kind of cricket played here, the crowd is known for being extremely colourful and fun loving, and together it makes for a very high energy experience.
5. Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium, Delhi
Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium, now called the Arun Jaitley Stadium, is located in the capital of India, and is the third oldest stadium of the country. It has been home to the IPL team Delhi Daredevils since 2008. It has regularly hosted high profile international matches, including World Cup matches in 1987, 1996, and 2011. Anil Kumble's iconic 10 wicket haul against Pakistan was in this stadium, as was Sachin Tendulkar's record breaking 35th Test century. The crowd in this stadium is known for its vociferous and passionate nature, and the number of great cricketers this ground has produced is a testament to the quality of cricket played here. Combined, this makes the Feroz Shah Kotla a must visit for anyone looking to immerse themselves in the experience of Indian cricket. If you're planning to watch a match at this legendary stadium, you can book a room at a hotel in Connaught place to rest, after a whole day of cheering for your team.
6. MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai
The second oldest stadium of India lies in Chennai, with a capacity of 50,000 people. It was formerly known and is more famous as the Chepauk Stadium. The IPL team Chennai Superkings calls Chepauk its home ground. Witness to some of the most important milestones in Indian cricket, this stadium defines the word 'historic'. It is here that the first ever Ranji Trophy match was held in 1934, or that India won its first ever Test match in 1952. Rahul Dravid's 10,000th Test run was also scored here. Of course, Chepauk has witnessed important matches in the 1987, 1996, and 2011 World Cups, along with other noteworthy international tournaments. The crowd at Chepauk is well known for being appreciative of good cricket regardless of the team, and embodies the spirit of the 'gentleman's game' perfectly. For a lover of cricket in all its pure sporting beauty, the atmosphere at this stadium is irreplaceable.
7. Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru
With a capacity of 35,000, this home ground of the Bangalore Challengers' IPL team also regularly hosts extremely high profile international matches including World Cup matches in 1987, 1996, and 2011. Chinnaswamy is famous for being the first even green stadium in the world, using solar panels to generate the electricity needed to operate. Also electrifying is the Bangalore crowd, which always gives the home team an extra boost in their performance. One should make sure to visit the Chinnaswamy for the best vibes in cricket, specially when the RCB captain Virat Kohli is on the crease! If you're visiting Chinnaswamy stadium, get yourself a hotel near M G road, so your commute to this stadium is a 10 minute stroll.
These were few of many amazing stadiums in India. More about how cricket is very emotional in India, we all remember the first match we watched as a child, it might have been one of these stadiums or any other but the experience was unparalled. Cricket is something special.