Is cricket moving to capital, finally?
Kochi: With the announcement of the Fifa U-17 World Cup in Kochi a friction between the state cricket and football associations that existed over the sharing of the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium has potentially ended.
The Kerala Cricket Association that had taken the venue on lease from the Greater Cochin Development Authority on the condition of sharing it with the Kerala Football Association is planning to move out as it sees the Greenfield Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram a viable alternative.
The fact that Kochi last hosted an ODI in October 2014 and that it has since become a regular football hub had apparently prompted the KCA to relocate to the capital city where they've taken the two-year-old stadium on lease for another 11 years. The KCA has also got the thumbs up from the BCCI for hosting first-class matches while an ODI is forthcoming.
“After the Fifa U17 World Cup the ISL will begin and we understand it is going to be a bigger tournament and that will restrict the chances of international cricket in Kochi. Meantime we had an international venue ready in Thiruvananthapuram so we are hoping to use that,” said KCA secretary Jayesh George.
The KCA is awaiting nod from the ICC to transform the stadium in Thiruvananthapuram into a prospective Test cricket venue. When that happens the two-decade-long coexistence of cricket and football in Kochi will end.
Sources in the KFA have said that they are planning to approach the GCDA with a fresh proposal that would terminate the shared status of JNI, making it a single-sport venue.
“From next season the ISL is likely to be at least a five-month-long tournament and if we get some other quality matches in the subsequent months there will be enough football played here all season for us to make JNI a football exclusive stadium,” said a source in the KFA.
Since mid 1990s the stadium has hosted scores of cricket and football matches, including nine ODIs and some top-draw football. Issues over the field of play became an issue, primarily after the ISL arrived because while 22 yards of hard, cracked up surfaces is indispensable for playing cricket the same is considered unfavourable for football.
The presence of cricket pitches in the centre of the ground had raised a few eyebrows during the ISL and a number of global stars in football, including Italian World Cup winner Alessandro Del Piero had cried foul over the improper playing surface.
All that is going to change and hopefully for good.