The months of April and May bring along a lot of joy and entertainment. Yes, it is the time of the fun-filled summer vacations. However, the added delight comes with the commencement of the cricket festival in India – the Indian Premier League (IPL).
The love for cricket in India is not restricted to a particular age group, which is why you will witness cricket fans of every age group thronging the stadiums during the IPL. Every franchise has a theme song; every team has a loyal fan-following that never fail in their show of love and support for their heroes.
The IPL is the most successful project by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). It is a platform that brings domestic and international players together in their battle for the trophy.
Only South Africa’s Ram Slam T20 Challenge was played prior to the inception of the IPL. The Indian T20 league, in no time, has scaled new heights and is currently ranked sixth among all sports leagues. After the IPL’s success, countries like Australia, England, Pakistan and Bangladesh initiated their respective T20 leagues.
The inaugural edition of the IPL was played in 2008. The tournament had eight franchises and each team comprised both Indian and overseas players. The first match of the 2008 edition was played between Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) at Bengaluru’s Chinnaswamy Stadium on April 18.
In 2008, nine venues were used for the tournament – Bengaluru, Mumbai, Jaipur, Chennai, Mohali, Hyderabad, Navi Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. However, nine years on, a total of 20 grounds across the country have hosted at least one IPL match.
Let’s go through the top five venues that have hosted the most number of matches:
#5 Sawai Mansingh Stadium – 13 matches
The cricket stadium is based out of Jaipur and a total of 13 IPL matches have been played there since the inaugural season in 2008. It was built during the reign of Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II and seats 30,000.
It is the home ground of the first champions of the IPL, Rajasthan Royals (RR). The Shane Warne-led side defeated CSK in the final to win the historic first edition. Ever since then, though, RR are yet to reach a final.
One of the most memorable matches at this venue was the 23rd group match in the 2013 edition, played between Rajasthan Royals and Mumbai Indians. Batting first, the Dravid-led Rajasthan entertained the crowd with some brilliant batting from Watson, Rahane and an uncapped Dishant Yagnik.
Rahane's unbeaten 68 off 54 balls helped RR go past 150 in no time and they ended up setting a defendable total of 179 runs. To add to the delight of the spectators, RR's bowling attack ran through the Mumbai line-up, dismissing them for just 92 runs.
#4 Feroz Shah Kotla – 21 matches
The Delhi venue has hosted 21 matches since the IPL was set up in 2008. It is the home ground of the Delhi Daredevils – the side that has failed to impress time and again, despite featuring some talented players.
Out of the 125 matches DD have played in the last nine years, they have managed to register a win only in 52 games. They have lost 70 and on three occasions, there was no result.
Feroz Shah Kotla, one of India's oldest international stadiums, has not only witnessed several memorable performances by the Indian team but also some fascinating IPL games. One of the extraordinary IPL matches played at the venue recently was the second qualifier of IPL 2016 between Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) and Gujarat Lions (GL).
Hyderabad's pacers, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Trent Boult struck early in the innings to reduce Gujarat to 19 for 2. Just when Brendon McCullum began to go after the bowlers, Bipul Sharma ended his stay. Aaron Finch, though, amassed a fifty and ensured they put up a defendable total of 162.
Gujarat’s bowlers then brought their side back into the game by taking quick wickets. With just five overs remaining, Hyderabad were struggling at 117 for 6 and a victory was still 46 runs away. However, their skipper, David Warner, stood tall, bashing an unbeaten 93 off 58 and single-handedly dragged Hyderabad into the final of IPL 2016.
#3 Eden Gardens – 21 matches
With a seating capacity of 66,349, it is the largest cricket stadium in India and the second largest cricket stadium in the world behind the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The iconic venue serves as the home ground for Shah Rukh Khan’s Kolkata Knight Riders and has so far hosted 21 matches.
The first IPL match hosted by the Eden Gardens was IPL 2008’s fourth fixture played between KKR and Deccan Chargers (DC).
Eden Gardens has hosted many electrifying IPL matches with the most notable one being the IPL 2013 final played between CSK and MI with the latter lifting the trophy.
The love affair between Eden Gardens and Rohit Sharma is one of the more beautiful stories in cricket. In the ninth year of the IPL, the fifth league match that was played in Kolkata was special because it was yet another Rohit Sharma Player of the Match performance that gave Mumbai a classy victory.
As expected, KKR began well by piling up 179 runs on the board in the first innings. In reply, they managed to dismiss four Mumbai batsmen but could not stop Rohit from finishing the game for his team. He remained unbeaten on 84 off 54 balls as Mumbai chased down the target with five balls to spare.
#2 M Chinnaswamy Stadium – 21 matches
The Royal Challengers Bangalore’s home ground, the Chinnaswamy Stadium has hosted 21 matches thus far. The IPL 2016 final was played in the Bengaluru stadium, however, the home side ended up losing to Sunrisers Hyderabad.
RCB have a passionate fan following and the fans turn up in numbers for their home matches at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. They turn the stands into “a sea of red” and are well-versed in how to perform a Mexican wave. The chants of “R-C-B, R-C-B” add to the electric atmosphere in the stadium that can house 38,300 spectators.
On the field, the Bengaluru side have been the most unlucky team in the IPL. They have made it to the final on three separate occasions but are yet to win the tournament. They suffered their latest heartbreak in the IPL 2016 final, where despite Gayle and Kohli exploding, they could not overhaul a 200+ target set by the Sunrisers Hyderabad.
#1 MA Chidambaram Stadium – 23 matches
The Chidambaram Stadium is the home ground of IPL’s Chennai-based franchise, Chennai Super Kings (CSK). It has hosted 23 matches, the most by any stadium since the inception of the IPL.
The first match that was played at this particular venue was the eighth match of IPL 2008 between CSK and Mumbai Indians (MI).
Other significant matches that were played here include the 2011 and 2012 IPL finals. Both the games involved the home team, CSK, and while they won the 2011 final by beating RCB, they lost the 2012 final to KKR.
The stadium has a seating capacity of 38,000. Due to the presence of popular faces like Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Ravichandran Ashwin, it is generally jam-packed.
One of the most memorable matches hosted by the Chidambaram stadium was the 13th match of IPL 2012. Half-centuries from Chis Gayle, Mayank Agarwal and Virat Kohli helped RCB post a massive total of 205 runs in 20 overs. However, Faf du Plessis’ Player of the Match knock of 71 off 46 balls guided the home side to victory.