A hot sunny afternoon! My wife and I were exploring Singapore in a private city tour – the extravagant Marina Bay Sands, the famed Singapore Flyer, the bustling Little India and the iconic Merlion statue. And lo and behold, what did I chance upon – a stunning well-maintained cricket field called The Singapore Cricket Club (SCC) Ground (also known as the Padang Cricket Ground).
It is an unusual sensation when you come across something you are tremendously passionate about, in a place where you least expect it to. A feeling of joy and bewilderment, curiosity and excitement! Imagine an Indian, for whom cricket is nothing less than a religion, lands up in a cricket field in an Asian nation, which is still struggling to put itself on the cricket map. I was jubilant, utterly ecstatic. My wife was completely amused – “You are acting as if a baby has got a new toy.”
The Padang (field in Malay) is an attractive, green ground located in the heart of the city’s business centre. Flanked by the Parliament House Building and the Old Supreme Court Building, the ground evokes a sense of intertwining of Singapore’s culture, history and politics. The business skyline of the city gives a modern expression to this quiet area. With no fencing between the field and the road, let alone the stands for the spectators, it felt that the SCC Ground welcomed us with open arms.
There was a manual cricket scoreboard, reminding me of the huge manual scoreboards that we see on our screens during Test matches. There was a gardener trimming and watering the grass to maintain the lush outfield. There was a football match going on in one part of the ground, and some players training and warming up for rugby on another side of the ground. The tennis court inside the SCC complex saw players in an intense battle for points. But what I did not see was a single soul playing cricket on the ground. I was heartbroken, dejected. I had thought I will meet up a few guys and talk about cricket – in Singapore and in general. The SCC did not allow visitors and I missed the chance to visit the club from the inside.
Then I decided to just research about this picturesque ground and get to know a little more about it. And was I surprised? Oh yeah, totally! The SCC was established in about 1852 – 25 years before the first Test match was played between Australia and England. This came as a complete shock to me; but I soon realized Singapore was a British colony and cricket here was a gift from the English.
The SCC is one of the oldest and most well-known cricket clubs in the world. It has evolved from the times of being a club for only the elites to now catering to the entire Singaporean sporting community. The club buildings have grown horizontally and vertically over the years, and the membership has also grown manifold. Besides cricket, the club offers its members a host of other sporting facilities like football, rugby, tennis, squash, hockey and billiards. It hosts the annual SCC International Rugby Sevens tournament and an annual Soccer Sevens tournament as well. This explained the presence of other sportsmen on the ‘cricket’ field.
What came as a bigger surprise to me though, was that many famous past players have already graced this beautiful playing field. Sir Gary Sobers, Alvin Kallicharran, Joel Garner, Dennis Lillie and Gordon Greenidge, to name a few have played at SCC. I started imagining Sachin Tendulkar sweeping a leg spinner, and the ball going directly into the Parliament building. Or Chris Gayle plundering bowlers for lofty sixes all over this small park!
And what did I find then? The SCC has been a host to a few one day internationals as well. Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and wait for the third name – India, have all played here in 1996 Singer Cup. Sachin got a hundred on this ground (my imagination was well-placed) but we still lost to our arch rivals Pakistan. Players like Azhar, Dravid, Inzamam, Aamir Sohail, Saeed Anwar, Kumble, Srinath, Jadeja et al have all played on this pitch, albeit for a couple of matches (Check the scorecard here). And no idea what the reason was – the smaller dimensions of the ground or his remarkable power-hitting and strokeplay, Sanath Jaysuriya scored a whirlwind century off just 48 balls, on this ground, a world record at that time! The roads surrounding the ground were occupied by temporary stands for the spectators, and the Padang Cricket Ground got converted into a proper stadium.
This petite ground indeed has an awesome history and pedigree. I came back with some fantastic memories of the Padang Cricket Ground, Singapore’s cricketing jewel. Wouldn’t it be amazing to see some of the current stars like Kohli, deVilliers and Williamson timing the ball sweetly to the ropes? Or Ashwin and Narine bamboozling batsmen with their spin tricks? The cricketing world – are you listening?