For the first time in 89 years of their Test cricket history, India will play a Test match at a neutral venue when they lock horns with New Zealand in the World Test Championship final in Southampton, though a limited number of Indian fans there could make it home away from home.
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Among nations with Test status, India and Bangladesh are the only sides who haven’t played Test cricket at a neutral venue.Over the last decade, most international cricket teams have played series against Pakistan at a neutral venue since there was no cricket in Pakistan. The series were mostly in the United Arab Emirates, with almost no crowd for either side as Test matches found few takers in the Emirates.
No country has visited Pakistan for 10 years since early 2009 when the Sri Lankan cricket team was attacked by gunmen. Since India have not played a Test match against Pakistan after the 2007-08 home series, they have not got to play any match at a neutral venue.
India had an opportunity to play at a neutral venue, back in 1998-99 during the Asian Test Championships. The final was played in Dhaka but India failed to reach it and Pakistan and Sri Lanka were involved in the title clash in Dhaka.
The WTC final at Southampton though will most likely be played in front of a crowd of 4,000 and there could be plenty of Indian fans, though not as many as India are used to at home or even overseas nowadays.
Rod Bransgrove, the chairman of the Hampshire Country Cricket Club has been quoted as saying by a section of the media that out of the 4,000 tickets, 50 per cent will go to ICC for its sponsors and stakeholders while they will be selling the remaining 2,000 tickets.
He has been quoted as saying by Cricbuzz that there is a huge demand for tickets. New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson has termed it an exciting prospect."I suppose having a different opposition, playing in a neutral country is an exciting prospect," the New Zealand skipper said.
Unlike India, New Zealand have already set up base in Southampton where they have got used to the conditions. The players are even going to stay in the same rooms.For India, though, the advantage is that they played a Test back in 2018 which they could have won had they not succumbed to Moeen Ali.