The death of former finance minister Arun Jaitley has shaken Indian politics. Apart from his career in law and politics, Jaitley was a trueblue cricket fanatic, who has played the game as an amateur, as well as being one of the game’s administrators, at least in Delhi.
In that light, the decision to rename Delhi’s only cricket venue, the Feroz Shah Kotla, after him doesn’t appear surprising at first glance. The Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA), which oversees cricket in India’s capital, has decided to name the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium after him. The renaming ceremony is due on September 12 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium with Home Minister Amit Shah and Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju expected to attend.
DDCA president Rajat Sharma, a close friend of Jaitley’s, has said the BJP leader had played a major role in the stadium’s modernisation and development. The modernisation had led to increased audience capacity as well as world-class dressing rooms. Besides this, Sharma said Jaitley’s encouragement and support led to players like Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli, Gautam Gambhir and a few others shine brightly in world cricket for India.
Feroz Shah Kotla is one of Delhi’s most renowned landmarks and was the citadel of the Tughlaq dynasty of the 1300s. It is what remains of Firuzabad, the capital of Feroz Shah Tughlaq, and is part of one of the 7 cities of Delhi. Delhi’s cities are listed chronologically as Qila Rai Pithora (near Saket, Delhi), Mehrauli (the area surrounding the Qutub Minar), Siri (Alauddin Khilji’s capital), Tughlakabad (the site of the vast fort after which the locality is named), Firozabad (the Kotla stands in it), the Shergarh Fort (now known as Purana Qila) and Shahjahanabad (the Red Fort lies in its limits). Then there is Lutyens’ Delhi, of course, which envelops the last 3 areas mentioned.
The cricket stadium developed near the Kotla in the expanse near it, and was, therefore, named after it. The grounds will still be called Feroz Shah Kotla grounds, as the DDCA clarified later, but the stadium will be named after Jaitley. This may be a rich tribute in a sport already divided along political lines.
While one may wonder what exactly would renaming a stadium achieve for Indian cricket, or more specifically, for Delhi cricket, the departed leader should be remembered not by renaming a stadium he was instrumental in building. The DDCA should honour Jaitley, by, say, instituting an award for emerging talent to spot the next Virat Kohli, incidentally a stand at the ground is to be named after the Indian captain. Or an international lecture keeping with the stature Jaitley enjoyed at his peak in Indian politics.
Renaming the Kotla stadium after Arun Jaitley and leaving it at that will be nothing more than populist tokenism.