Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Missing Wankhede…

India finally set their ODI record straight at Wankhede. As far as I could remember, after the memorable Titan Cup win and the one–off match against SA in the 96-97 season Wankhede has proved to be a graveyard for the Indian team when it came to ODI matches. The added security measures made watching the match anything but a memorable experience. Indian victories could have proved to be a balm on these discomforts but even they were hard to come by except the one victory against Bangladesh in 1998 where I’m sure the stadium did not overflow with spectators. (Two reasons: Opponents were Bangladesh and the torturous May heat!)

But seeing the second innings on TV on Monday 28th November brought back tons of memories and I started missing Wankhede all over again!

  • The long queues (to get into the stadium) that begin at 9.00 in the morning; when the stadium gates are slated to open at 12.30.
  • The colourful crowd dressed in their sporty best
  • The huge Indian flags flowing all along
  • Little flags painted on cheeks and hands
  • Young little tots on their way to experience their first match live at the stadium, all excited and lost
  • Teenage girls screaming and yelling to catch a glimpse of their cricket heroes
  • Despite seeing them several times the excitement to catch the cricketers in flesh and blood
  • The mad rush to get the best of the seats (Seat numbers rarely matter in any of the stands except the MCA Pavilion and Garware)
  • The frenzy to get hold of all the water bags and eateries cause there won’t be a break or a chance to get out once the match starts
  • The loud cheers that welcome the two captains for the toss
  • The never ending wait between the toss and match to start
  • The discussions across age-groups; almost like a pre-match analysis
  • The deafening cheer to mark the start of the match when the bowler comes in to bowl the first ball
  • The chants for fours and sixers when the Indian batsmen are on a song
  • The sudden silence when the Indian wicket falls and the next moment a loud applause if the opposition batsman has played a fine knock.
    (Yes, the Mumbai crowd has still not lost the spirit to applaud the opposition. I hate the silence that follows a good stroke or a wicket-taking ball from the opponents! Come on cheer a good player and the game!)
  • The outstanding live commentary that is going on, in and around you, trust me you learn a lot of cricket there by listening to the people around. Yes, most of them do know their stuff
  • The hilarious moments when you see people passing themselves off as experts when they don’t even know ABC of cricket! I know it’s sadistic but it’s fun to hear them yap away to glory
  • The fear that you will miss the shot to the boundary or the fall of a wicket because there aren’t any replays at the stadium
  • The thundering roar that marks the arrival of local boy Sachin Tendulkar, 'Amchya Mumbaicha Mulga' (Our Mumbai’s Son) to the batting crease. (If Tendulkar is slated to bat one-down or two-down, Wankhede must be the only ground in this country that cheers the fall of the Indian wicket the loudest! Yes, they are human at times and can be partial!)
  • The chant to cheer individual players which goes for e.g.: 'Dra-vid, Dra-vid (clap along in the beat) and followed by quick three claps, accompanied with loud whistles in the same beat.' (Drums and dholkis have been banned since the Mumbai blasts, else the beat and sound was phenomenal, you got to witness a fine example of unity in diversity)
  • The Mexican waves splashing across stands and the crowd booing the stands that refuse to show the energy to continue the wave in the same vigor (Garware stand is often the target!)
  • The chanting of 'Ganapati Bappa Morya', every time the Indian team is in trouble
  • The entire ground singing 'Hum Honge Kamyab', when ever the team needs encouragement
  • The chants and discussions that follow post the match, when everyone is tired yet energetic, relishing every moment of the day ; hoping to see one and all the next year once again to cheer their team and see the best of cricket yet again.

Sigh! It’s noisy, it’s discomforting, it’s maddening, it’s crowded, it’s frightening, but all the moments above make these small complaints look miniscule compared to the tremendous atmosphere at the stadium. One walks in as any other spectator and walks out only as an Indian and a true sports lover (where one learns to appreciate a good play even if it is by the opponents). The one quality that binds one and all coming to see the match. Yes, it’s one of the smallest things of many important ones that makes one proud as an Indian and unites one and all.

Savour the experience for a lifetime and keep visiting again to relive it. I have surely tried it in the last 14 years of watching cricket. I would give anything to be at the stadium rather than watch the match in close comfort at home on TV. The two are simply not comparable!

14 comments:

Sushmit said...

chanced upon your blog at arun's...abt the post...yeah...can empathise...i feel the same way about eden gardens!

Mary said...

Wow! I know just how you feel.. nothing like watching it live at the ground hey? :) I could really imagine what it would be to watch live at The Wankhede with your great descriptions!

Minal said...

@Mary: You bet it is!! Before I die, wish to see matches live @: Lords, SCG, Eden Gardens(for the sheer size of the stadium, not the crowds, their behaviour in recent times is not acceptable)Antigua(The calypso music rocks)

Minal said...

@Sushmit: :-)) I hope someday I'll get to see a match at the Eden Gardens.What a ground!

Sunil said...

remarkably....i've almost always liked the matches at the Wankhade.....even though India's lost too many over there.

And i've enjoyed the few matches i've seen at the chinnaswamy (Bangalore), my "home" ground.

But....i'll have to say this (though i dont like that city one bit)...one of the best kept grounds, which always has a fantastically sporting crowd that only wants a good game of cricket is Chennai. The care the curators put in, and the general pride of the crowd with the stadium....i haven't seen too often.

Always amazes me.

Mary said...

Minal.. :)Amazing! that's on my 'to do list' as well! - to see a cricket match at the SCG and also Eden Gardens.

Minal said...

@Sunil: I've enjoyed matches no matter what, just that off late due to tight security ODIs are getting too crowded and tiresome. Test matches are real fun though. Isn't the atmosphere electrifying?
Right on target about Chennai, it's a lovely ground and more so I think the crowd knows its game really well. Btw I don't like the city either;-)

@Mary: I pray both our wishes are fulfilled in this lifetime;-)

Sujatha said...

Hi Minal, I'm going to do a post on the India/SA ODI we saw in Bangalore. Your post echoes many of my thoughts.

When we went to London the first time, there was a match going on at Lords and we asked the people at the gate to let us in and they did! It was awesome to see that. The next time we went to London, a colleague of mine gave us two of his tickets to a match at the Oval. We saw NZ and Pakistan. It was awesome!

Minal said...

@Sujatha: I shall await your post madam. I really do envy you for geting such easy entry into the match. Here in India that would be only possible in your dreams:-)
My sis resides in central london and has been pestering me to visit her soon, and I intend to plan my visit depending on the international cricket schedule at Lord's;-)

panchatantra said...

hi, i am a calcuttan and your post reminded me of some fantastic times that I've had at Edens (i am happy I wasnt a part of the proceedings on occassions where Edens shamed itself)

anyways, i moved to a hostel for my undergrad studies, and watching a match in the hostel common room was kind of like the best of both worlds : there were like 100-150 people sitting in a room bursting at its seams - which meant all the pre and post match analysis, cheering, jeering . Overall the atmosphere would be electric.

We also had the luxury of instant replays !

Minal said...

@Panchatantra: Yes i can imagine the scene in hostel! It must be absolute fun. I deliberately avoided to mention the behaviour of the crowd in recent times at Eden. Eden is a jewel among the Indian Stadiums and sadly the crowd has not lived up in recent times! Does not work well for its reputation does it?

NB said...

Minal..awesome post
brought back memories..
the last match i saw at wankhede was the india v oz (worldcup match).where tendulkar had gone beserk and so did the crowd..
one more thing..im not sure it happens anymore..but during those times..apart from all the mexican waves and the player chants..during the slow phases of the match..the crowd would arbitly chant against Ravi Shastri..random..
this happened even if there as a ranji trophy match going on at wankhede..Ravi shastri is the one player bombay used to love to hate..another memory.is to try and catch a glimpse of whatever game was being played through one of the openings..while on the train that was just getting in or out of Churchgate...good memories..

Minal said...

@nb:How could I miss out on the 'Ravi Shstri' chant. You are right about that. Nothing happenign in the game start chanting Shastri Hai Hai and ya the eternal Pakistan Hai Hai also continues but of late the crowd has sobered down:-)

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