Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Journey to the 22 yards, Part 2

(for part 1, click here)
In came Sreesanth, and the match had begun! I was in the stadium with a thin, but noisy crowd, and noisy it sure was! Right from the word "GO", the kids were very busy with the loud horns and trumpets and whistles!

It looked very bright, sun was out above our head, and it was all so very well for cricket. In a few overs' time, Sreesanth had gotten India its first wicket! Guptil was out caught behind. Of course, we had no clue about the edge. The players celebrated, so did we ;-) . We had to wait for the replay to have a better look at what had happened. And the sun was shining on the screen, so, we couldn't see much of it at the first go, but the multiple replays helped! And very soon, their second wicket was also down... Sreesanth had uprooted McIntosh's stumps.. This was much clearer! The stumps were cartwheeling! It was such a wonderful sight! I just love it when a pacer beats the defense of a batsman and hits the stumps hard enough for the stump to take a walk!

Our favourite, Ross Taylor went in to bat, and he played some gorgeous drives on the off side, assisted by Bhajji's unsure fielding. But then, he wasn't going to stay in there for long, as Ishant and Ojha shared the duties in reducing the Kiwis to half their size by the time they went in for lunch.

All throughout that session, we had Sachin fielding near our stands. And he received, you know, thunderous welcome every time he came our way! To each of it, he would show his appreciation with a wave of hands, wearing a serene smile on his face! And on some other occasions, there would be Ishant or Gambhir. Both of whom got loud cheers from us. Ishant got "Complan Boy" cheers for sure! :-P

We had to settle for bread-pakodas and samosas for our lunch, and some desserts (read as soft drinks and ice-creams). We didn't bother much, food was secondary to us all! The game was what we came there for.

And the players returned for the last session of play. We had to go higher up in the stands to avoid the gleaming afternoon sun, which I had been resisting thus far. From the top most possible box, the view was exactly what they call "bird's eye"! The players on the field seemed to be miles away, but it was a different feel! When the 6th wicket fell, we thought it was a procession out there. New batsmen came and went, but Jesse Ryder held fort at the other end.

We had been wondering why McCullum (Baz) had not yet arrived at the crease till then, and had our own theories about it (injured, not playing, slept off etc). But now he arrived. And very soon, both Baz and Ryder had injuries on the ground... Ryder had a sore thigh or something, and Baz had pulled a muscle while going for a run. And, bot of them had an injury being carried into the match. So, as per the agreement between the captains, neither of the two were allowed a by-runner. And then on, it was more of stand-and-play, whereas MSD spread the field and made the two to run for their runs!

Nor did they run much, nor were they scoring much. It was a boring phase. A stalemate. And then, Ryder threw his wicket away to Bhajji towards the end of the day. Either he lost his concentration, or got tired of staying put... Either way, we folks got a big boost to enjoy the day on a happy note! We were all the team's expert now. Each of us knew exactly how to get the three remaining batsmen out within two overs the next day. This was the conversation we had on our lips as we walked toward the East to board a bus, leaving the stadium behind us. The stadium was dark on one side and was bathing a shade of bright red on the other side, courtesy the sun! A giant red ball, visible between two trees, it was a beautiful sight.

As we reached the cross-roads, the police patrol was busy directing the crowd so as to avoid any traffic jam. This place has no traffic problems any other time of the year. Just that 5000 vehicles swarm this place during the match-days! So, we cut around the corner and proceed to bus-stop..........STOP!!! The place was flooded by people! I bet 1000s of them! We were NEVER getting on board a bus if we are to wait for one there. So, we had an idea flash in front of us. We crossed the road, and boarded a bus going in the opposite direction, got down at the next stop and boarded the bus on our route from there! So, we saved time, and patience!

And by the time we reached "Burdi", which is the heart of the city, I had sore throat and hence, cough, cold, running nose and all its family members. I got some cough drops and an inhaler to help me fight through this. We bade goodbye to our little chap, and returned to our hostel. It was a cool evening, and a mild breeze blew across our face on the auto-trip back to room. I was tired, and wasn't even sure if I knew what I was talking to the people who wanted to know about the match. (there was a power cut in the hostel all day long, so we were the only ones who had seen the match! :-P ). After the dinner, I crashed into my bed and fell asleep!

The 2nd morning, same routine- got up early, bathed, left hostel by 7 am. This time, we went to that Burdi place to have our breakfast, to avoid putting our tummies to any risk. I was loaded with my cough drops and inhaler. (and we decided not to carry our charts today, no one noticed it, so, not worth the work).

We went to the stadium riding a tempo/share-auto... Some 13 people squeezed in a tiny space, and that included an Englishman, who seemed to be sarcastically impressed with it ("aah... can happen only in India"). The journey was quick, and we were there b 8 45.

The play began at 9 am. It was calm, and not many people were present when the play started. Baz left early, to Ishant. And now, the tail was in! Right below our bay, school kids ad started to flow in. They rushed inside in huge numbers and were scattering in all sides, which startled the ground staff, who were seated comfortably down there, without a thing to worry...till then! And now, they shoed them away from the railing and then made them sit on one side. LOUD cheers of "INDIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA INDIAAAAAAAAA" echoed throughout the stadium, and we joined the chorus!

Today, Ishant got more cheer, the kids love him. And Gambir got "Captain Gauti" complements on being selected te previous night as the new captain for the following ODI series. He was blushing, to sum his expression! Ishant then knocked back Andy McKay's stumps! My favourite Indian bowler on the ground and him destroying the furniture was quite a sight!!! And the legendary batsman of the 21st century, Chris 'Phantom' Martin came in to bat along with the always promising Tim Southee. Martin was brilliant! No one could breach past him :-P . But Southee was now depositing balls towards our end. One fell short, one fell into our stands. First, we liked it. Then it grew irritating! And soon enough, he cheered us up by throwing his wicket away.

Viru called for it at mid on. Some of us saw the ball in the air coming down, the rest who didn't spot the ball looked at Viru. He pouched it and went into the dressing room, which was just behind him! NZ all out for 193... a little more that what we thought we could restrict them to.

And all of us were now craning our necks to have a good look of the dressing room. The umpires came in first, who got some cheer... Then came to Kiwis, who got a little more. After a few minutes of practice on the field, they came together for a huddle. but the attention shifted to the men who mattered - Indian Openers, Viru and Gauti!!!! The Delhi Duo have become very fearsome in the recent past, and we all were waiting since the previous day for this treat!

From now on, Viru and Gauti helped us lose some pounds of body weight. We were put to the duo's fitness regime of sit-and-stand exercise. We sat and waited for the ball to be bowled, which would be belted to some corner of the field, and we all got up to cheer out the name of the batsman who played the stroke. Occasionally, the celebration will feature dancing, slogan shouting, and in extreme case, swearing :-P . When Viru stepped out to Dan and deposited him over the long on boundary, we were surprised it was a 6! He hit it so effortlessly! Gauti was just creaming the ball between the gaps. The kiwis were just flightless! Lunch was called. Everyone took a breather. Openers wanted to get their breath back for some more brutal explicit cricket, the fielding team wanted to wake up from the unconsciousness, and we needed something in our tummy to fuel us through the subsequent sessions!

After a good lunch, the play resumed. Slow to start, picked up pace, and lost its steam when Viru got out. Then, in came Rahul Dravid, whom people didn't respect much due to his recent form. But I was more than happy to see him in. In my mind I had this imaginary book, and I put a tick mark next to "Watch Rahul Dravid play". He came in and played with unmatched charisma, so very conscious of what he was doing. A defensive stroke was so beautiful. A shot was so stunning, that we would wave a salute to him from the stands. Not for nothing is he "The Wall". Watching him play, was like watching poetry in motion, silken touch, handsome play(er)!

Gauti perished to a tame delivery, and another wonderful innings ended short of its destination. He now had his touch back in his armory and was ready to lead the side in ODIs. As Gauti left the ground, the crowd stood in appreciation, clapping loudly. After he left, the clapping stopped, but not a single soul sat down. All were awaiting the entry of the one man, claimed demi-God, the single man who has been breaking though every possible record...Sachin Tendulkar! This reception, might have been rarely received for someone who is just entering the pitch. I dont think Steve Waugh got this loud reception after his last innings in Sydney (if you remember the match, you know how big that innings meant to him personally, and to the team, having saved the test).

So, now, we have Sachin and Dravid out in the middle. Tea was called, and play resumed in 20 minutes. And for 35 balls, not a single run was taken. Which was making the crowd restless. When Sachin finally drove the ball down the ground for a couple, the whole stadium got up and cheered, in a mocking manner :-P ! Then on, the two settled in and played some exquisite strokes. Especially the ones straight down the ground, their feet so assured, the fielders' feet so immovable. The two were painting a beautiful cricketing match on the ground, while the sun was dipping into the horizons, painting a scene itself along with the landscape in the distant vicinity!

As the day ended, India already led the Kiwis by a big distance, and were comfortably in the driver's seat! Dravid and Sachin were in ominous touch! And now, we had so much to share, talk, discuss and relive!

I had enjoyed my two days at the stadium, my first ever attendance at an international cricket game. If at I had a wish not granted, it was watching VVS Laxman playing. He was the man I was hoping to see playing. He is my favourite batsman in the current set up. But, ah well, it was a very good experience. More so, because India was playing better and was all set to win this match, having saved one from the jaws of defeat and drawn the other "comfortably". As I went back to my hostel that evening, I was recollecting frames from the two days, reliving those moments. It was a nice feel, though my not-so-nice health brought me back to reality time and again.

Watch a cricket match in live attendance - check! :-)

(Looking forward to getting my hands on ticket for the world cup game (Ind-SA) :-) )

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