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Friday, July 22, 2011

Cheering for India at Nagpur

Cityblog reader Gautam Naik was at Nagpur to witness India VS S. Africa WC match. He writes his first hand experience.


Imagine the scene: 50,000 people walking out. All are crestfallen. Some are silent, some are cursing. Some are very anxious to get out their car from the parking mess. Some are very hungry, some thirsty for spirits. That was 10 45 pm at Nagpur outside VCA Jamtha stadium just after Robin Peterson hit Nehra the winning boundary. Some clever people had rushed out immediately after Peterson hit second ball for six over long on: farthest point where we were sitting.
Just imagine reverse scenario if Peterson would have giving catch to bhajji at long on or nehra would have been able to produce some dot balls.... The same crowd would have seen dancing out of stadium amidst drums bugles, flags, shouting ‘India-India’. Many would have waited till Man of the match interview to end.... And i would have ended my dream come true in most ideal pattern.

Alas there was sad ending, final twist in tale. But what I witnessed was amazing.
Cricket is just another sport. It is not here in India. It’s mass opium. It’s a crazy combination of sports passion and manipulation by media, commercialism, and corruption. We don’t have cricket lovers, we have cricket jingoists. Especially this trend is very scary. I have seen India play at the stadium in 80’s Vs England at Pune. I have seen India playing WI at Eden gardens in 90s and here in 2011 at VCA Jamtha vs South Africa. This was my first experience watching a sachin century. That will be the most treasured memory of lifetime.

Coming back to point, in 80s the crowd supported India but idea was to watch good cricket. In 90s it changed where crowd only wanted India to win. Now it doesn’t matter, fans are taken for granted. It’s all about TV audience. In fact Nagpur crowd was sporting to applaud great shots from south African batsmen.

Reason I say fans are taken granted for is that howsoever you treat them, you will get full house. Start with tickets, they had to suffer lathis. Those with connection (including myself) got it without pain. It reflects Indian culture of nepotism. They said tickets were online. Except for those with foresight in 2010 , no one got hold of them. System crashed.
They don’t heed for fan’s comfort during the matches. I know VCA is one of the best stadiums where seats are numbered and clean. You have cafeterias (though very inadequate for the crowd). Ground is a great sight. But the main problem is access. This stadium is 20km outside Nagpur with single connecting road. There was a massive traffic jam. The road is wide. But anyone with common sense would have opened three lanes for vehicles towards stadium and one for reverse. But no such flexibility was shown by police. Some people started at 11 and just got in right time. Many lost first 5-6 overs. Security was vague in spite of terror warning. They were just checking tickets and frisking was very superficial. Anything would have happened but thankfully or luckily it went well. That’s the state of our preparedness against terror. ‘ Rambharose’; i.e. riding on good luck....
Water was served in polythene bags which was a big problem to open and drink without getting wet or spilling it. So by the end of match there was lake of spilled water over stairs and area. Toilets were reasonably big and clean. Mind it this is best stadium in India. I cannot imagine how it must be at some non descript venues... To see whole one day match is energy sapping for spectators. Add to that constant dancing, music and antics to get camera attention. I don’t know how foolish you would look when you see your own antics later. The urge to get seen on camera was spoiler as everyone else who did not stand up had to lose out on action or had to stand. Thankfully score board was good and so were action replays of balls. Going back again took us three hrs. So add six hrs to 9 hrs of match time. Real tough ask. But Indian fans don’t mind hardships.
Coming to on field, it’s an experience watching Sachin field. Surprised? A great learning curve watching him field. That was the most memorable part of the experience. Let’s start with Indian batting. Sachin while batting is as cool as anyone can. He plays with bowlers mind. When to attack, when to defend, he keeps them guessing. He is smart. Of course his talent to score and technique is beyond comparison. He advised Gambhir many times to either stand outside crease to Dale Steyn or to go one step back for Morkel who is high on bounce. Sehwag is also another cool chap. He was troubled initially by steyn. These guys bowl fast. The speed and carry of ball was visible from my position just behind square umpire. But Sehwag attacked to get out of that tight corner Only sehwag and sachin can attack such quality bowling. Gambhir took his time to settle but scored when he got set. I justify Dhonis decision to take powerplay because both sachin and Gambhir had timed two offside boundaries of Steyn very well in 38th over. So they felt they were in. But all batsmen including sachin went for lofted shots where they got wrong. Smith was clever in making all players stand on edge. Crowd was stunned. Some even started cursing them. When Indian innings ended, we knew we were 20 runs short and that was fatal in the end.
Bowling initially held Smith and Amla bogged. Though batting conditions were easier in evening thanks to dew as ball was coming more on to the bat. Our bowling rose to occasion and ensured that we lost with 2 balls to spare. The kind of score we had would have been otherwise surpassed with 3-4 overs to spare with say 4-5 wickets in hand for a team like SA. Our fielders though were sluggish when singles were converted to twos. Gambhir and Yuvraj dropped sitters. That’s what I said it was learning curve watching sachin field. You know then what makes sachin as sachin he is why others are just termed others. He is fully committed. Others lose focus when action doesn’t revolve around them. But Sachin’s body language is different. No South African batsman thought about second run when he hit towards Sachin in deep. He took a catch, he saved few boundaries. I could not see same body language inside any player except Raina or Kohli to some extent. But age is on their side. What about the most senior player at the age of 38?
The fact that I was there to witness Sachin’s 99th international century will remain a high point of my life. The crowd reaction was crazy. It went berserk as he reached 96 and amount of noise when he made 100 was deafening. I have those moments captured. Add to that Sehwag’s batting, Gambhir’s shots, nail biting finish, crowds roar after every African wicket, and quality of Steyn & Morkels bowling all was a great experience.
The very fact that you are part of action that millions would be watching all over world made me feel different. And I was just a dot in 50000 strong crowd. I don’t know how players feel when they are at the centre of attraction with close up cameras etc. What is it being sachin when you carry billions hope? Spare a thought...

Author runs blog http://nayakgiri.blogspot.com

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