Circa 1933. Legend has it that when Anthony de Mello called on Lord Brabourne to request for a piece of land to build a stadium, he made the governor of Bombay a rather undeniable offer. “Your excellency, which would you prefer; to accept from sportsmen, money for your government, or immortality for yourself?” the player-turned-administrator is believed to have asked the governor. Brabourne, not surprisingly, chose immortality and allotted the CCI 90,000 square yards at a price of Rs13.50 per square yard from land reclaimed in the Backbay reclamation scheme. Four years later, the Brabourne Stadium in Churchgate became India’s first permanent sporting venue when it hosted a match involving the CCI and Lord Tennyson’s XI.
Eighteen Test matches, eight ODIs, a solitary Twenty20 International and very many first-class matches (including the Pentangulars, of course) later, the darling venue is all set to celebrate 75 glorious years of existence. The second Test starts on Friday, but every member of the Indian team has agreed to attend Thursday’s function. N Srinivasan, the BCCI president, will be the guest of honour. “We will also present Sachin Tendulkar with a gold-plated plaque for completing an unprecedented 100 international hundreds earlier this year,” CCI secretary Commodore (retd) NK Jha informed. It may be recalled that Tendulkar, who is a voting member of the club, has played a lot of cricket on those hallowed lawns. What’s more, it was the late Raj Singh Dungarpur, a long-time president of the club and chairman of selectors, who picked him to represent India in 1989. He is, in a way, indebted to the institution.
Virender Sehwag, who lost out on a golden chance of becoming the only batsman to score three triple tons (he made 293), was the star of the match. It was the first Test at Brabourne since February 1973. The CCI was involved in a long dispute with the Bombay Cricket Association over the allocation of tickets for matches. Things reached a boiling point after the above Test and SK Wankhede, a politician and BCA secretary, led from the front and decided to build a new stadium nearby. The new ground was built in six months and opened in time for the final Test between India and the West Indies in 1975. That’s how the Wankhede Stadium was born.
Back to the function and a few members of the England touring party are also expected to attend. “Captain Alastair Cook, team director Andy Flower, batting coach Graham Gooch will be made honorary life members,” Jha added.