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England under pressure to negotiate crowd pressure

Tens of thousands are expected to flock to the world’s biggest cricket stadium on Wednesday and India skipper Virat Kohli thinks England will be intimidated by the experience.

The rebuilt Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad, where former US president Donald Trump held a rally last year, will allow half of the seats at the 110,000 capacity venue to go on sale each day for the third Test.

Crowds only returned to Indian cricket for the second Test in Chennai this month as India bounced back from their opening loss to beat England by 317 runs. With the four-Test series level at 1-1, Kohli is counting on the home fans to build up a pressure-cooker atmosphere for Joe Root’s side.

“The crowds really get behind us and the difference… we saw in the second Test,” Kohli said. “That’s what playing at home is all about. It’s not only about the conditions on the field. Fifty thousand people and their energy behind us, it does push you in the right direction and puts a lot more pressure on the opposition.”

Kohli highlighted India’s pride at having the world’s biggest cricket stadium — ahead of the 100,000 capacity Melbourne Cricket Ground. He said: “The infrastructure is very good and we’re all really excited to play here.”

The stadium will get a Hindu blessing on Wednesday before the game starts.

India captain Virat Kohli during a net session ahead of the third Test in Ahmadabad. PHOTO: BCCI

Electric atmosphere

Root says his side are looking forward to the challenge. “I am sure the atmosphere will be electric. It was great to see fans back in the previous game and with the size of this ground I’m sure that noise will go up again. That’s what you want — to be part of these big games in these big stadiums and being part of history, which us what this game is.”

The ground has shiny new blue and saffron seats, manicured grass and LED lights ready to welcome fans and players as India stages only its second pink-ball Test.

After its $110 million upgrade, the stadium has held some domestic Twenty20 games but this will be its first international.

“Around 35,000-40,000 people will be expected each day. Of course the numbers will be maximum when India is batting,” a Gujarat Cricket Association official said.

The former Motera Stadium last hosted a Test in 2012 when India beat England. The tourists though won the series 2-1. The venue was razed in 2015 and required five years to rise again with its capacity doubled.

The new stadium was Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project when he was state cricket chief till 2014.

Board of Control for Cricket in India secretary Jay Shah and his father Amit Shah, a former GCA president and India’s home minister, took the project to completion. The perfectly round venue promises unobstructed views from every angle and has facilities including four dressing rooms and a club house equipped with an Olympic-sized swimming pool.


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