Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Memories from Moin-ul-Haq

On a WhatsApp group, the conversation started about the two additional teams in IPL and meandered along to cricket stadium in Patna. To the mild disbelief of many, Moin-ul-Haq stadium in Patna has actually hosted internationals. Three men’s ODIs in the mid ‘90s, all of which featured Zimbabwe as one of the teams. There was a Hero Cup match between Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe in 1993 and a World Cup match between Zimbabwe and Kenya. The World Cup game had to be replayed due to rain and hence the match count goes upto 3. 

Patna also hosted a few women’s matches - a Test and 5 ODIs in the 70s. In fact, Moin-ul-Haq stadium is where the Indian women recorded their first ever Test victory. 

Internationals have been very few. Firstly, there was competition from Jamshedpur, a more established venue (relatively) within the then Bihar state. Then, post the creation of Jharkhand in 2000, the action shifted entirely to Jamshedpur where the cricket association was headquartered. Thus, Bihar and Moin-ul-Haq stadium disappeared completely from the radar for nearly two decades. It was only in 2018 that the team made a comeback to the Ranji setup. The stadium has also become more active with Ranji Trophy games back and also hosting a Women’s T20 quadrangular tourney. However, with a proposed new international stadium coming up in Rajgir, Moin-ul-Haq might meet the same fate as Keenan Stadium in Jamshedpur ever since Ranchi became the preferred venue in Jharkhand! 

However, personally it will hold a special place as the venue of my first ever stadium experience. A Duleep Trophy match played between North and Central Zones. While I don’t recall too much of how the play went, I do have vague memories of the stadium being quite full and Maninder Singh hammering a couple of sixes! There were quite a few internationals in action, including big names like Kapil Dev, Manoj Prabhkar and Maninder Singh. There were also some other internationals like Kirti Azad, Atul Wassan, Raman Lamba, Ajay Sharma, Gopal Sharma. And a few future internationals like Ajay Jadeja, Pravin Amre and Prashant Vaidya, whom I wasn’t even aware of till I looked up the scorecard!. Quite a stellar cast for a domestic game. 

That was the first-ever live serious cricketing action that I saw. Thus, while most folks name famous stadiums from across the cricketing world, my favorite continues to be Moin-ul-Haq. The facilities for spectators were non-existent, there was no glitz and glamour, and it is located in a state not really known for its sporting prowess, but it will always have a special place in my cricketing memories.