Iconic Nehru Stadium, Guwahati, which has witnessed many exciting sporting and cultural events spread over five decades, stands revived and revitalized with the successful holding of Syed Mushtaq Ali, T-20 tournament, 2021. True to its reputation, the new look Nehru stadium has hosted recently the ‘elite group B ‘competition of the tournament that comprised of top teams like Mumbai.

Karnataka, Baroda, etc excellently, hoodwinking dampened spirit caused by the pandemic. The Assam Cricket Association deserves laurels and praise for infusing new lease of life to the multipurpose, historic stadium which was conceived and built by widely respected R.G Baruah, the ‘lion man of Assam’.

With the construction of sprawling, magnificent modern stadiums at Xaruxojai and Barsa Para for football and cricket respectively, the importance of Nehru stadium started getting relegated to the background since all international and significant national matches are being held in these stadiums much to the chagrin and despondency of the old-timers.

A journey down memory lane rekindles the sight of the congregation of huge football followers across the state and from neighboring states like Meghalaya, Mizoram, etc coming down to watch quality games in Nehru Stadium, Guwahati till the mid-80s.

Bordoloi Trophy, a premier Football tournament organized by the Assam Football Association, was the most popular Football tournament of this region up and all the celebrated football teams of the country along with a number of foreign teams used to participate unfailingly.

Nehru Stadium, Guwahati, became one of the familiar venues of the country. Other football tournaments were there like the ‘Swadhinata cup’ tournament at Nagaon, Deokan Trophy at Jorhat, Shyamala Sundari Shield, at Dhubri, etc. Bordoloi Trophy, however, being head and shoulder above all such tournaments used to generate a tremendous amount of enthusiasm—almost like the annual auspicious festivals— and the football lovers waited with bated breath to whet their appetite to watch competitive games.

While the big names of Kolkata football teams were attractions for the admirers, the Assam police football club became the heart-throb of the football lover by virtue of its superlative performance. Gilbertson was the darling of the crowd. I vividly remember the electrifying Nehru Stadium packed with nearly forty thousand crowd rose to a man when Gilbertson, displaying scintillating skill, had foxed two defenders of Kolkata’s Mhd Sporting team to score a solitary goal to win the final of Bordoloi Trophy, 1971.

The ‘ODI’ between India and Sri Lanka is still fresh in the memory of genuine cricket lovers for the superlative batting displayed by the legendary Sunil Gavaskar. Braving a typically cold January morning in the year 1987, a huge crowd had assembled in Nehru Stadium.

India took on a strong Sri Lankan team that had players of the calibre of Arjuna Ranatunga, Aravindo D’Silva, Chaminda Vyas and others. Capitalizing the turning track, Indian spinners especially, Maninder Singh, Ravi Sashtri etc had bundled the Sri Lankan batsmen out for a paltry 145 runs. Gavaskar, the little master, showed his class scoring a swash-buckling 70 runs enabling India to win handsomely.

Among other memorable matches played at Guwahati, the ODI played on 5th Nov 2007 is worth remembrance. This was an encounter between India and its arch-rival Pakistan. The entire city nay the state was surcharged with excitement long before the match actually commenced. The Pakistan team with stalwarts like Shoaib Akhtar, Shoaib Malik, Younis Khan, etc was a formidable opposition.

Batting first, the Pakistan team had put up a challenging score of 239. The beginning of the run chase by the Indians was disappointing losing the valuable wicket of Tendulkar early. However, Saurav Ganguly’s brilliant batting followed by M.S Dhoni and Yuvraj Sing’s electrifying onslaught had steered India to a memorable victory.
Nehru Stadium, Guwahati, has hosted 14 ODIs out of which two matches were abandoned due to extraneous factors. It has been a lucky ground for Team India having won six matches comprehensively.

It would be an interesting piece of information that Lance Klusener, an accomplished South African all-rounder, had shot into prominence in the international arena on the strength of his superlative knock in the One-day International encounter against Australia played at Nehru Stadium, Guwahati in Titan cup, 1996.

Titan cup was a three-nation ODI tournament. The grueling encounter between two foreign teams that took place on 1st November was enjoyed by the capacity crowd and their love for the game was adequately rewarded.
Lance Klusener’s magnificent 88 runs helped South Africa get past the Australian score of 239 runs heralding the birth of a very successful all-rounder in the international scene. Nehru stadium was the venue of many cultural and musical programs that were invariably attended by Guwahati’s elite public.

Now that the Cricket Stadium at Barsapara with all modern amenities alongside the internationally recognized Xaruxojai football stadium are firmly entrenched, the possibility of Nehru Stadium holding international matches in the near future seems to be remote. However, Nehru Stadium will continue to provide enormous joys in the minds of Sports lovers whenever they will recollect in tranquillity some of the brilliant moments of the games, they witnessed here.

Gautam Ganguly

Ganguly is a retired ACS officer and sports enthusiast. He can be reached at: gautamganguly2012@gmail.com