Wednesday, February 16, 2011

India Aus warm-up match Feb 13, 2011

After countless refusals, my friends convinced me for a WC match. The swaying point for me was India-Australia and warm-up match. And perhaps a chance to see Sachin from close quarters - hence the Rs 500 ticket (plus Rs 66 in tax) in D stand rather than Rs 250 (plus tax) in 2nd tier stands.

The match being a day-nighter starting at 2:30pm, I didn't have to worry about my friends getting up early in morning. But inevitably, plans of going early went awry. Eating 'heavy' lunch had to be canceled and instead me and Thiru cooked mixed-vegetable-rice (Anyone wanting the recipe can contact me or Thiru - absolutely free :D) Poor Yokesh, tired from roaming on Saturday and Sunday morning as well, had to gobble it :D

Around 1:20PM, we left for the match and any last minute chance of buying chart dispelled as the only nearby stationery shop was closed. Fortunately, the very first autowala was ready to come at meter-charge! Nearing the stadium on MG road, we could see crowd pouring in through various gates. Must have to applaud traffic management for not allowing too much jam and by 1:40PM we had reached gate no. 5. To our overwhelming surprise, there was NO QUEUE!! Going through the security was 5-min and by 1:46PM, we had 7 seats secured and I had taken my first photo.

Clear blue sky 

Reaching well before toss was the only consolation, as Team India were practicing on the other side :( (In 2008, when I had gone for India-Australia test match, Team India were practicing on our side of the ground). We could make out Ashish Nehra and Sreesanth bowling and there was huge cheer when the Indian captain arrived in blue jersey. MS Dhoni miraculously won the toss (and predictably chose to bat) but the big news was that Sachin had minor niggle and rested. By 2:20PM, our juniors had also arrived. A local band played before the start of match. The big screen was thankfully functional and the loud-speakers were well placed (but hard to make out what was said, thanks to 35K+ crowd)

The crowd were momentarily silent as it dawned upon them that Sachin wasn't going to play, but immediately started cheering as Brett Lee came steaming in to bowl at Gautam Gambhir. Despite maiden over, we cheered and let out oohs and aahs. Brett Lee's run-up was just awesome. When the over ended, it was like did we wasted our time and money for this? But it was Sehwag to be on strike now and everyone started chanting Sehwaaaaaag Shewag followed by clap-clap-clap. And when Bollinger's first ball full-toss was dispatched disdainfully, the crowd went delirious. We were sitting in the cover area (mid-wicket from other end) and expecting Sehwag's booming cover drive which never came our way.

Gambhir fell early and by 4-5 overs, the cheering was down to the odd boundaries by Kohli and Sehwag. The 7 of us were making too much of cheering that the viewers behind us couldn't see the play on field properly. We didn't stop our dramatic cheering much though and they permanently left the seats :D. Kohli and Sehwag put on semblance of a good partnership to keep us going but once Kohli and Yuvi were out, it quickly became a bore, what with MSD coming to crease. Around 14th over, I asked Srini and his friends to check out what the catering services were and to bring water. He came back empty handed and before I could reprimand him, he explained that nothing can be brought inside. What an idea Sirji! Reduces litter and potential throwing of bottles onto the ground! So, me, Thiru and Yokesh went (as it was only Dhoni batting). Prices and food items were reasonable whereas bottled water free and overall lot cleaner than my previous visit. And there's verification of ticket to get back in!

After we came back, our frustrations grew as Dhoni dragged onto his stumps (after a change of bat :D). Sehwag's sixer to reach his fifty brought crowd onto their feet again, but very next ball Sehwag got out draining our hopes. Raina and Yusuf were on crease now (the ground announcer kept saying new batsman comes into 'attack' :D) We were hoping that these two can drag on to atleast 40 overs to get to a respectable score. To bring some excitement, we started "We want Sachin" chant and very next ball Raina was out!

I kept reminding my friends about the 2008 test match against Aus where India had lost quick wickets and Bhajji and Zaheer played good knocks. Bhajji came and immediately dispatched Brett Lee for a four. But yet again, our hopes were dashed as Brett Lee's fiery ball knocked Bhajji's middle stumps. Piyush Chawla  was next and I said that he is not bad as a batsmen. He was out for a duck :D (After previous wickets, I had said that atleast no duck so far :-/ ) I repeated the same for Ashwin saying he has scored 100 in Ranjis, and this time I got lucky :P With each run, crowd cheered up and our hopes for 175+ score grew. Yusuf Pathan showed great restraint against the pacers. When Bollinger came back into the attack and threw the ball back at Ashwin, the crowd got all worked up and roared. Few viewers to our left had chart. They made a loud-speaker kinda shape out of them and started boo-ing (which continued intermittently till end of the match, inspite of police patrol very near them)

As partnership grew, we wondered why hasn't batting power play been taken. Then as David Hussey came on to bowl the 39th over, Yusuf Pathan cut loose. 2 sixes and the stadium roof was threatening to fall off. 2 consecutive wides were cheered raucously, but when Yusuf fell next ball trying for another six, the silence was deafening. And the next over, batting power play was taken with Ashwin and Viv Richards incarnation Ashish Nehra on crease. But Nehra must have somehow known our distaste - he hit a clean cut shot befit of top order batsmen and soon the partnership got India past 200, which at one stage looked improbable. During the 39th over, the big screen showed 38.9 overs!

Arun had gone for refreshments and came back with hardly believable news that Bisibellabath+curd rice were being served free. Someone explained that D-stand had a tradition (or was it because the ticket was 500+?) for serving free food. So, except me and Srini went to have it to avoid rush at innings break. Nehra hit two more fours and Srini wondered if we would end up batting all 50 overs. I said Nehra would try a sixer and get out which soon proved true.

After the innings ended, Tait came to practice. He initially took just two steps and bowled, which looked liked 140+ :D Soon he was in full flow, sending down balls with fiery pace. Srini and me then went to see if could get a bite or two. There was huge bottleneck at the doorway, with people going in both directions. When we finally got in, there was probably 1% chance of getting a plate and rice. So we got lays and a plate of watermelon, which actually filled our needs for the moment. Again, I liked that the workers actively cleared out used plates.

The lights had fully bathed the stadium as we went back. The sky looked grayish as if covered with rain-clouds. But in truth, not a single cloud hovered. The gentle breeze was cold enough for people to put on jerkins and sweaters. But we hadn't brought and kept ourselves warm by being active all the time. The local band assembled again just before the Australian innings start. They had done well with their beats and dance throughout Indian innings and did a brief one on the ground.

The local band

Soon the Aussies innings started with Dennis Lillee incarnation Ashish Nehra to start the proceedings. Shane Watson promptly dispatched the first ball straight down the ground, hardly breaking a sweat. I clapped, not mocking Nehra, but enjoying Watson's batting B-). Sreesanth started from the other end and surprisingly bowled well first few balls. So out came the Sreesanth chant all around the stadium and Tim Paine promptly hit a four. That put an end to our cheering for a while. After 3.1 overs, both Watson and Paine had identical score of 9* and we had a laugh at it. Munaf Patel replaced Nehra after two overs, only to leak more than him. I guess thats when people starting leaving or started contemplating leaving early.

Sreesanth bowled pretty well, but gave away the odd boundary as soon as we started cheering for him. Then the miracle happened - Sreesanth got Watson's wicket, that too Piyush Chawla holding onto a good catch. Though we thought there's not even a remote chance for an Indian win, we cheered so loudly that Ricky Ponting coming onto bat must have wondered if India was on the verge of world cup final win. Ponting was obviously boo-ed to the crease (unlike the TOI reporter from corporate box within closed wall reporting that there was no boo-ing). We said to ourselves that, if even one ball hits Ponting on the pull, it would be worth our ticket cost. When Sreesanth returned to his fielding position, he was more willing to respond to the crowd's call, as well as punching his fists in the air.

But Ponting and Paine set out to kill any tiny bit of expectations after Ponting got lucky start with edges missing the fielders in Ashwin's first over. We started discussing when to leave and resorted to seeing how run-rate was dropping, making fun of Ponting and laughing at a peculiarly odd sound made by the loud-speaker-charts. We targeted a particular cameraman looking like an Aussie with Merv Hughes like mustache. All seven of us pointed our mobile phones at various angles and clicked (or simply made action of clicking) whenever he seemed to point his camera in our direction.

The aussie looking cameraman whom we mocked

After a while, Yokesh and me started discussing on how effective Yuvraj was and he got a wicket as his is won't these days. But what was astounding was the one-handed running catch by Munaf Patel. Perhaps Aussie players went into a shock state seeing that catch? :D The crowd let out a loud cheering for the wicket, but by that time some had started leaving. The Pup and his master were on crease now.

Chawla picked up Clarke next over for a duck, but 120/3 and 95 to get from 27 overs hardly looked a case for Indian win. We thought we'll leave after 25 overs. Thiru said 30 overs. And Chawla then produced his magic - White and Hussey dismissed in consecutive deliveries. Crowd were well and truly onto their feet now, creating ear piercing decibels. Mexican waves started doing rounds (very very nice seeing the raising of hands passing from one stand to the other), I think there were 1-2 rounds in the Indian innings. Every ball was cheered and we were egging on with chants of "India Jeethega" And when Chawla dismissed Ferguson, the match had become irresistible to miss anymore. Somewhere between the wicket carnage, I was so confident of Australian win that I gave my word to Thiru to pay his ticket cost if India won. (See, ultimately, this bet on my part only won the match for India :D) And sometime during this carnage, the police doing rounds found viewers in front of us using camera and confiscated the batteries (perhaps for their use or to sell it :-/ )

Our expectations had grown out of bounds, so when wicket didn't fall for 3+ overs with Johnson looking confident to give company for Ponting, thoughts again crept to leave the stadium. Around 55 was required with Lee and Hastings to come. It was 35th over, and I said that we are definitely leaving after this over. But Bhajji ensured that we would not leave without witnessing an Indian win by stumping his bunny Ponting. The celebration for Ponting's dismissal must have lasted around 5 minutes (including the 3rd umpire referral). Johnson's big hit seemed to threaten a comeback for Aussies, but Bhajji effectively sealed the deal for India next over with two wickets. In Ashwin's last over, so much was happening so quickly that I failed to get a look at the final wicket, but who cared. The outbreak of victory with hi-fives all around will always stay in mind.

Some events which am not able to place in chronological order:
  • Zaheer going across and coming back was cheered throughout, he acknowledged for a while too.
  • Justin Langer moving around, but not turning around for our calls x-( :P
  • During the initial stage of the Indian innings, a lady in front row just stood like a pillar! After several calls did she relent and sat down.
  • Throughout the match, one of the cameraman came very near to the barricade to show people sitting/standing there onto the big screen. As he used the camera below the barricade height and horizontally, we had no chance of coming onto the screen. We thought of going near the barricade just for the camera, but never did.
  • One of my junior had brought head phones (of Nokia mobile), the security didn't allow them inside, took it from them and asked to collect after the match. Both the security and head phones were missing after the match. The place where the security had collected them had batteries and other stuff thrown around. Advice: Don't take anything other than wallet and mobile to the stadium
One of the best experiences to date for me (am I using such words too often these days? blame it on  cramped busy life :D) The way we shattered invisible wall of restriction around us by dancing, cheering, boo-ing, mocking, shouting our throats sore(it still is sore) and what not. Felt like true freedom. And yes, an Indian win - icing on the cake :)

Arun's blogpost on this match can be read here.


Anonymous said...

Mexican wave generation , Cameraman'a padampudichchadhu , wave dance .. ithellaam sollaama vittuteengalae na !

Sundeep said...

I did mention abt mexican wave (but didn't mention that we got the crowd to do it)

cameraman - i have put it with photo also

wave dance?

r.yokesh said...

Hey nicely written sundeep :) Aana you missed the best part - the dancing of you guys - the word 'true freedom' you said was here :) Really an awesome day da... And, it was '6' who were active :) I was busy making cricketing notes ;)

Sundeep said...

thanks yokesh..

I tried to summarize all of that in last para...
I felt I won't be able to describe the dance part and it's already a big post ;)

srini said...

WOW Anna!!! "Invisible wall of restriction".. Kya baath hai :-) :-)

Sundeep said...

hehe, that point was noted down when me and Yokesh were discussing about the experience at the ground itself ;)

and thanks to you for 'forcing' me to this wonderful experience :)

leo said...

hey that was a nice write-up of the whole thing..knowing ur love for cricket i can only imagine u dancing around :D had fun with the mexican wave and all eh?and u guys are soo lucky man..u wd get to c more matches come wc..theres no match scheduled here :D hey maybe i'll c u on the big screen :D

Sundeep said...

thanks :)

but, no, am not going for any WC match - the only good match is on Feb 27, when I probably be in Kodagu ;)

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