On a toss between which blog should host this post, this blog won fair and square... (whats so fair about square?)
A couple of weeks ago, around this time, I had just returned from a little stationery shopping - charts and markers. No, I didn't have a presentation the following day in my college. It was going to be my first ever attendance at a cricket stadium for a test match! India was to take on New Zealand at the VCA Stadium in Jamtha/Nagpur. And, I was excited about it, felt like a kid!
Having missed out on a chance to attend a test match a couple of years ago (Ind-Eng @ Madras) thanks to the hefty security that left more security personnel in the stadium than spectators, I was looking forward to this game for more than 2 months! Day 1 and 2 were on the weekend, and "the stage was set" (sorry for being Ravi Shastrish)
Back to the present... I spread the chart paper on my bed, stared at it, my eye focusing way beyond it. It was one of those situations where you don't know what to do, because you have too much going on in your mind. My roommate came by, picked up one of those charts, wrote one in expectation of Sachin's 50th ton. My brain cells couldn't win a war over the what I should write, and after dinner, when I zeroed in on what to write about, I had no choice of words to put in". So, I went out for another walk for some edible shopping, which we finished off later that night during a party thrown by my classmate who was about to leave for greener pastures.
Anyway, it was nearing midnight, and I wanted to sleep, thinking I would write after I go to the stadium, and went to bed.
Got up at 5 30 next morning, soon enough woke my roommate. I took bath in the cold shower. Noticed that there was a power cut. And with some time on hand before the planned departure, I finally arrived at what I wanted to write. (keep the drum rolls coming, its on the way). Scwibbled it on the charts, wrapped it up and we were ready. the third guy of the group arrived, and we left the campus in search of an auto the bus stop. Nothing starts early in the morning in this part of the country. (catalyst - wintry chillness, and a little bit of rain)
We finally got one and reached the bus stop (Chatrapathi) and we had to wait for my friend's 10 year old cousin to join us. In the meantime, one bus, not very crowded, went past us. Assured by my friend that there will be many more of them we waited for the little chap to arrive. He did very soon, and we were off. A standing ride to the stadium, but not painful, then began! The highway was beautiful, black road, green surroundings. A cool wind eclipsing the picture of yellow sunshine. When the Caribbeans sang "Sun is shining, and the weather is sweet", they probably meant this.
A little further was a 10 minute break at a petrol station. And then, we went past the hotel where the players were staying (but they were already at the stadium). In 10-15 minutes, we were at Jamtha. From a mile away, the stadium was looking beautiful! A neat white structure with tall floodlight towers, and peeking holes portraying the yellow/blue/green/purple seats in the background. Seeing is believing.
Once we got down, we cut down that one mile between us and the stadium. We had to buy the tickets. We were walking straight down the road and we almost went past one asbestos shed bunker that could've easily slipped past us as a tea hawker's shop, caught my attention. Someone was putting up a banner on it... the sign read "Tickets here". And we went on for it. "Bay E, Level 1, seats 31-34" it read. And each one of us had our own version of where it was. And enthusiastically, we reached the gates of the stadium. my roommate pointed out Laxman Sivaramakrishnan in the Toyota Innova that went past us and into the VIP gate. LSK was about to wear his sunglass in the car. I thought he was going to sing a song for us, but that will be just me...
With the stubborn guards not allowing us in even after 9 pm for a match that was scheduled to start at 9 30, the twitter updates from cricinfo and NDTV were the only things that kept us "within the game" that time. Then came the security check. He looks at the charts and says, "what are these?". C'mon Mr Policeman, what did you expect a chart paper to have, my report card? he opens, and reads them... Don't know whether he read them or not. he fouund one of them empty (we thought of making one if something exciting happened during the course of the game. He said, "no, you are not allowed to take in empty charts! strict order". And he takes away the empty chart (also my bag with a couple of water bottles in them. But then, gave my bag to a shopkeeper to safeguard it instead).
Finally one stadium manager who seemed to be driving down that way found us all waiting outside, and immediately rang up the subordinates and asked them to open all the gates. he apologized to us on the gatekeepers' behalf. So sweet. The same policeman, who takes the empty chart away, allowed me to take pen and markers inside. Funny? Stupid!
We enter what we think is our bay, get through the security checks and get seated right near the boundary line! WOW! what a view! The ground was greener than the green crayon you used in your kindergarten. And there was a camel near the pitch. Oops, sorry, that was Ishant Sharma! 6'5", no kidding! he was taller than all present on the ground!
The sign on the little big screen said "match delayed due to wet outfield". There was sun shining at most parts of the ground, but there was one shady part near the east side, which was still wet due to rain in the previous afternoon. "Supersoppers" were put on heavy duty. Saw dust was sprayed around and the advertising boards were cleaned. Sunil Gavaskar was frantically waving his hand in front of the camera, explaining something to the television viewers... No play for a while. The whole area under the shade was to be blotched out dry! It would take some time.
And we were informed by the ground staff that we were in the wrong tier, and we were supposed to be on the first tier, and me huffed and puffed and made it to the top tier. The view was more clear now, whole ground visible!
So, the play was delayed... But, we were not sad. It was a first-time for all four of us here, and we were all so very excited to see the Kiwi players practicing near our side of the ground.McCullum, Ryder, Martins, Guptil, Hopkins, Jeetan Patel, Southee, Taylor, and of course, NZ's beautiful physio Miss WhateverhernameWhocares. Taylor was the only one who would respond to our cheering, whenever we called his name. He would wear that handsome smile and wave his hands, and we would go frenzy over that and try our chance at the other players. When none of them responded, we were back at Taylor again, who didn't disappoint us :-) . ( "I'm just a kid" )
Near the Pavilion (Southern side) were the Indian players practicing. Ojha running, Srisanth and Ishant bowling, Sehwag throwing balls for MSD to bat. And at the far end (west) was Sachin, with coach Gary for some fielding practice. And, the west stands were flooded with school kids. Once they saw Sachin their side, they rushed to that corner of the stands, like water collecting towards one side of a tilted conical flask! And boy, can they shout! Every time Sachin caught a ball, the noise from that section of the ground was loud enough to catch the attention of anyone on the train that runs on the track behind the stadium!
Nearing 11 am, players went in for lunch, sighting no chance of play anytime soon. the kits were still on the ground suggesting play wasn't going to start for more than "anytime soon". After some more ground inspections by the referee and umpires and groundsmen, between which supersoppers and ground staffs were working out hard, the call came in that the game would start at 12 30 pm! At 12 noon, there would be toss. Sunny Gavaskar did a pitch report. It was a touch green, supposedly hard and thought to favour batsmen. The mic Sunny had was not connected to the ground audio-system. So, we didn't hear what he said about the pitch. But I was very very excited. This was the perfect time for me to bring out my chart! I un-rolled it, opened it and waved it enthusiastically! It read "Make Earth Greener. Make Pitches Greener. Save Test Cricket" . And after Sunny's talk, I pinned it there on the railing with some wiring me and the little chap found there.
Ravi Shastri ( I think) hosted the toss, and the captains were out there with the match referee. MSD tossed it up, and Ravi Shastri went to Vettori with the mic. So, it meant NZ haf won the toss. And it, by default, meant NZ were batting. Many of us were expecting to see the likes of Viru and Sachin and Laxman out there, but we were just as excited to see all of the them walk into the field together!
We quickly spotted them all one by one as they came out of the dressing room. Dravid was the second last, Sachin the prestige!
And then came in the Kiwi openers!
Game set. Umpires called "Play" and Sreesanth steamed in with the ball, the ground with fresh throats screaming at the top of the voice and the local vuvuzelas echoing...
to be continued..... .... ... .. .