I'm glad that I go to watch cricket matches every once in a while. It reminds how Cricket is a god-awful spectator sport and how bad (with the sole exception of Mohali) all Indian cricket stadiums are. So, let me describe my experiences at the 5th ODI between India and South Africa, no need to get into the gory details like who won and all that.
First, I genuinely thought that the match was on a Sunday and I was mortified to learn that the 28th was a Monday. This meant that all stock-brokers with slightly bearish sentiments started watching the match and ignored those crazies who are determined to make the Indian bourses the most wildly over-priced stock exchange in the world - it crossed 9000 yesterday and now trades at an average 15 times earnings.
On with the match. Our seats were in the Guest Stand - the Vithal Divecha Pavilion - which is accessed from across the rail track - next to the Mahindra Hockey Stadium and under the light tower. There was no prescribed seating and me and my friend R, decided to get close to ground level. The ground is caged in and watching the match through small 4 inch square jalis is a bit weird but given the psycho nature of the crowd, understandable. If the batsman is batting at the north end, we would be in a mid-wicket sort of position (to a rightie). Not the best seats in the house, but OK.
The cacophony was immense. It was as if someone could go deaf inside the cauldron of Wankhede Stadium. The roar that went up when India won... the toss was amazing. And then after another half an hour of twiddling our thumbs on rows of seats which would make Captain Gopinath of Air Deccan feel proud because of their tremendous small pitch the action began. Graeme Smith was welcomed by jeers and the Indian team was feted by 110-decibel screams and thousand and one women screaming "Irfan". This was going to be fun. (The babe quotient in the field isn't half as great as TV would make you believe - there were a lot of young girls - pretty ones there were very few of, which is surprising given that this IS Mumbai).
I'll tell you this much following a game of cricket devoid of statistics and even a way to find out the score without squinting your eyes (The large electronic scoreboard decided to go on the blink) is rather difficult. Pathan came and bowled his heart out and then Bhajji came and bowled some really cheap overs, before taking that great catch on the side of the fiel opposite us. We watched the catch on the two large screens - which were playing advertisement after advertisement. But until Shaun Pollock got some verve back into the South African innings, it was all rather dull. The six Pollock hit seemed like it was headed for Churchgate.
It between innings, R and I rushed back to my office where we had left our mobile phones, as the Ticket had told us to do. But, as usual, the Mumbai Police didn't give a damn (they let in some 5000 people without tickets the papers said) and we discovered that people were happlily carrying their phones inside. R got some interesting pics on his phone which I will post later.
Getting back into the stadium a tad too late to catch Gambhir going for a duck, we did manage to see Sachin and Sehwag give the crowd a small dose of fireworks before they both got out. When Sachin went, it was as if the crowd had had its lollypop snatched from them.
During the entire match people were more interested in watching (non-existent) fights rather than the match (but things were so boring, I couldn't blame them) and then there was the Mexican Wave business. Every hour or so, a Wave would start either at the North Stand or the Sunil Gavaskar Stand and then carry on, and on, and on, at least for six or seven chakkars until people got bored. The funniest part was that once the wave ended people would start clapping, for themselves. Then there was Andre Nel, the rather jovial chap made the cardinal mistake (in Mumbai no less) of taking Sachin's wicket and then also staring down Indian batsmen if they played and missed at him, sometimes exchanging a few words. So the crowd, the North Stand started this, calling him, "Cheater, Cheater" in a faux-age 10 style. No maybe they were all going through their second childhood. It then went to "Loser, Loser", and by the time Nel was near our side of the boundary it has progressed to "Nel is a bastard" and "Asshole, Asshole" with even the kiddies joining in. The only slightly imganative line - "Nel, Nel, go to Hell." Poor guy, got rather riled up. But no discounting from the fact that he is an awesome bowler.
What I found really ironic was Ravi Shastri calling the pitch a good pitch, it was a dull, boring pitch. Maybe Shastri was buttering up Sharad Pawar. Who has just won the BCCI Election. Maybe Pawar should do something about improving the seats at Wankhede. No wait, this is all about politics not cricket. Sigh!
Will I stop going to cricket matches? Nope, never. India is playing the whiney English guys sometime in March in Wankhede in a Test. And I'll be there. All five days.