Cricket in LucknowCricket being India’s most popular sport has a large fan following in Lucknow too. The Uttar Pradesh cricket team has won the Ranji Trophy once in 2005-06 and finished runners-up twice in 1977-78 and 1997-98. So far, only two international matches have been played in Lucknow; a one-day international between Pakistan and Sri Lanka in 1989 and a test match between India and Sri Lanka in 1994. However, many domestic matches involving Uttar Pradesh have been played here. Sahara India Pariwar, one of the main sponsors of the Indian cricket team, is based in Lucknow.
Recognising the avid interest in the game and the potential that exists to groom young players, the Uttar Pradesh government has proposed the establishment of a cricket academy along with an international level cricket stadium in Lucknow. It will be built on 13 acres and have a seating capacity of 50,000. The stadium will also have facilities for other sports.
Officially, cricket in Lucknow is governed by the Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association (UPCA) which is a member of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. Ironically, the UPCA is based in Kanpur in spite of Lucknow being the capital of the state.
The Guru Gobind Singh Sports College, on Kursi Road, has been instrumental in grooming many young cricketers from Uttar Pradesh. It offers world class facilities for cricket as well as other sports.
Some eminent cricketers who have been groomed in Lucknow include:
A right-handed batsman, Mohammed Kaif (b.1980) made his debut for India in 2000 against South Africa in Bangalore. He caught the selectors’ eye due to his performances in the Under-19s team. Kaif is best remembered for his role in the NatWest Series finals in 2002 when he helped India chase a formidable total of 326 runs to win the trophy and was named Man of the Match for his effort. He captained India once in a 2005-06 Challenger Trophy ODI match. Kaif was also known for his fielding and running between wickets. He was dropped from the Indian team in 2006 but continues to play for Uttar Pradesh in domestic cricket and has turned out for the Rajasthan Royals, Kings XI Punjab and Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL. Kaif has scored a total of 3,377 runs at the international level with a highest score of 148 not out in tests and 111 not out in ODIs. Kaif is a resident of Allahabad.
Playing cricket for India since 2005, Suresh Raina (b.1986) is a left-handed middle order batsman and an occasional off-spin bowler. Originally from Kashmir, he is today a resident of Muradnagar and was groomed at the Guru Gobind Sports College in Lucknow. Raina was part of the 2011 World Cup winning team. He plays domestic cricket for Uttar Pradesh and is part of Chennai Super Kings in the IPL. He caught the selectors’ eye in 2002 when he captained the Uttar Pradesh Under-16s team and was selected to play for the Under-19s team tour of England. Raina was also awarded the Border-Gavaskar scholarship in 2005 to train at the Australian Cricket Academy. The talented cricketer has come far since then and has been one of those who can be counted on to make a solid contribution whenever required. He has one test century, 3 ODI centuries and one T20 century, among a total of 6, 032 runs scored, to his credit. Raina has also captained the Indian team once; in 2011 during the West Indies tour when circumstances ensured that he was captain for the ODI and T20 matches.
Rudra Pratap Singh (b.1985) is a left-arm medium spin bowler who has been playing cricket for India since 2005. He was groomed at the Guru Gobind Singh Sports College in Lucknow. A resident of Rae Bareilly, he plays for Uttar Pradesh in domestic cricket and has turned out for such teams as the Deccan Chargers, Kochi Tuskers, Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore for the IPL. Singh caught the selectors’ eye after an impressive performance in the Under-19 World Cup in 2004 when he took 8 wickets for 24.75 runs. He was a member of the ICC World T20 winning team in 2007 in which he was the second-highest wicket taker. Singh has taken a total of 124 wickets at the international level.
Piyush Chawla (b.1988) was selected for the Indian team in 2006. He is a left-handed batsman and right-arm leg spin bowler. He plays for Uttar Pradesh in domestic cricket and turns out for Kings XI Punjab in the IPL. Chawla caught the selectors’ eye after taking the wickets of Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni in a Challenger Trophy match in 2005-06. He made his test debut against England at Nagpur in 2006 and played his first ODI match against Bangladesh in 2007. Chawla has taken 43 wickets and scored 1,538 runs at the international level. He is a resident of Aligarh.
A right-hand medium pace bowler with the ability to swing the ball both ways, Praveen Kumar (b. 1986) has been playing for India since 2007, when he made his ODI debut against Pakistan at Jaipur. He made his test debut in 2011 against West Indies at Kingston. Kumar became only the 12th Indian bowler to take a 5-wicket haul at Lords on the England tour in 2011. He has taken a total of 112 wickets at the international level. Kumar plays for Uttar Pradesh in domestic cricket and has turned out for the Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kings XI Punjab in the IPL.
The youngest of the players from Uttar Pradesh, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar (b.1990) caught the selectors’ eye for his swing bowling. He hit the headlines in the 2008-09 Ranji Trophy final when he became the first Indian bowler to take Sachin Tendulkar’s wicket for a duck. This right-arm medium fast bowler made his debut for India in 2012, playing the first T20 match against Pakistan. He was soon included in the ODI and test teams. In his debut test match he scored 38 runs, the highest by an Indian batsman who has batted at no.10. Kumar has taken 45 wickets so far at the international level. He plays for Uttar Pradesh in domestic cricket and has turned out for the Royal Challengers Bangalore and Pune Warriors in the IPL.