The good and bad sides of smaller venues!

 An interesting feature of the India-England ODI series, which kicks off on Thursday, is the international debut of three stadiums, including that of the newly-built Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium here.

The other two being HEC International Stadium in Ranchi and the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium in Dharamsala which will host the third and fifth ODIs on January 19 and 27 respectively.

Ranchi’s debut will also see its most famous son – MS Dhoni – play in front of his home-town crowd for the first time since he made his India debut in 2004 in Bangladesh.

“It’s a big thing for me,” gushed Dhoni when asked about his ‘home coming.’ Incidentally, Jharkhand last hosted its ODI match against England (in 2006) at Jamshedpur’s Keenan Stadium and India lost by five wickets despite Dhoni’s bruising 96. The previous match at this ground had also ended in home team’s 106-run defeat to Pakistan, Dhoni then managing just four.

“We had an international stadium, the Keenan Stadium where we played a few games. I think the last game we played was against England where we lost. But it was a beautiful stadium,” Dhoni reminisced on Thursday.

Stressing that it was very important for the local associations to have their own ground, Dhoni said hosting matches in smaller places meant attracting big crowds. “It’s a big effort from the association, from the President to the Secretary and all the people involved. I think overall it will be nice. We’ll be playing there after a long time. What we have seen in the small venues is they attract a lot of fans, who come and support good cricket. I think overall it will be very exciting.”

However, the flip side of holding matches in smaller centres is the utter chaos that prevails everywhere. There was so much disturbance during Alastair Cook’s press-do that the England skipper had no choice but to cut short his engagement and walk off with a wry smile. And when Dhoni walked into address the media, there were ‘privileged’ families that sat through the press conference along with scribes.

By holding international matches, Dhoni felt, cities get international recognition. “When I came (into the Indian squad), it was difficult to make people understand which place or city I was from, but once we have an international venue, people outside will recognise the city quite easily. It’s good for the State and very good for our city. It will be a different feeling for me, to go and play in Ranchi after a long time. It’s quite similar to the first first-class game I played in my city,” he offered.

Given Dhoni’s popularity in India, though, Ranchi didn’t need any introduction.

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