Tuesday, March 30, 2010

An Evening To Remember, An Evening To Forget

The last time I had gone for an IPL match was in May 2008. It was a crucial Delhi Daredevils V Kolkata Knight Riders encounter which could've decided which of these two would make it to the semi-finals. It turned out to be the only match in the entire tournament to be called off, without a single ball being bowled, due to unseasonal rains. The crowd erupted with joy when Glenn McGrath sauntered in to inspect the damp pitch. Also when it was declared a wash out, after 3 hours from scheduled start of play. Naturally, yesterday when I went to see the same teams face off each other again there was a sense of deja vu. 

We left our office in Gurgaon for the Ferozeshah Kotla in North East Delhi about 3 hours before the start of the match. Yes, we could as well have left at that time to catch a match at the Eden Gardens. By the way, we couldn't make it in time for the toss. A favourite trivia tit-bit in the automobile circuits of India has been that the numbers of cars in Delhi NCR is more than the number of cars in Mumbai, Chennai & Kolkata put together. The drive from G to FK y'day laid to rest any doubts anyone may have harboured about this trinket of information. There were helpful 'Unlabelled Car Parking Ahead' posters all around the stadium. Within 30 minutes of following them we realised that we had encircled the stadium twice and the adjoining hospital and medical college once. Feeling dejected at being taken for a ride, as literally as it could get, we parked our car in front of the gate of the  mortuary of the medical college. The spot was eerily empty.

A 20 minutes walk from there led us to our stadium gate. Since the metal detectors had decided to stop beeping because the officials were not paying any attention to their incessant cries anyway, the security guards asked us to empty our pockets. Yes, again, literally. The not-very-common 10 rupee coin and the golden five rupee coin that I had preserved for many months were quickly taken from me and put into a donation box. Reason given was that there are men (who I presume look not dissimilar to me) collect these coins and keep them for months only to give in to bouts of lust and throw them at the cheerleaders. I was a little worried to realise that I never felt such obvious manly urges, but I didn't let that show on my face.

After climbing six flights of stairs we took our seats in the stadium closest to heaven, farthest from the ground. The Devils had won the toss and decided to bat first. For some reason our part of the stadium had an almost even supporter base of the Devils & the Riders. I didn't feel very out of place in my purple & gold KKR jersey. In fact if you counted only those wearing jerseys, of any teams, as fans and disregarded others in non-jersey-wear I think KKR beat DDs by a fair margin at least in our part of the stands. Mr. Brand Manager of Reebok if you're reading this please feel free to share the link with your boss. Also with SRK. Please?

Anyway the DD innings started with a flurry of shots and a quick wicket of Viru, the local hero. The chants of 'KOLKATAAA-KOLKATAAA' was deafening, at least in the 7 rows around us. A few glares from my wife,  a passive (by Punjabi standards) Delhi supporter  couldn't deflate my enthusiasm. A few more, and I settled down to watch the match with renewed concentration. 


The run rate was phenomenal, but thankfully the wickets were also tumbling at a steady rate. Wife happy, me happy. But then the innings started to resemble a usual marriage joke. Wife went from happy, happier to happiest. My spirits were, to put it mildly, not exactly as high as our seats in the stadium.

While Chris Gayle bowled to the Warner-Collingwood combination and was slaughtered, I raised some deep questions like why should any of us, Indians, bother about a West Indian bowling to an Australian and an Englishman. The timing of the Mexican Wave spoilt the moment and the grave question was lost to the crowds forever. I realised how Harry was feeling in that scene from the movie where he met Sally.

After 20 overs, which seemed more like 50, generously sprinkled with 4s and 6s it was time for Dada's men to take the Devil's bowling attack to the cleaners. Oh, this post can't be complete without a mention of that 4 feet, 70 kilo kid in purple & gold. Not only did he shout his lungs out with chants of 'KOLKATAAA KOLKATAAA' and 'Korbo Lorbo Jitbo Re' from ball number 1 to 120, he was nothing but a modern day David taking on a battalion of Goliaths when he matched the shouts of 'Delhi Rocks' by a houseful stadium with 'Delhi Sucks' 'Delhi Sucks'. Keep an eye out for this kid, he must be a real life reincarnation of some mythical hero.

The KKR innings had everything going for it. In this day and age of 'slam bang thank you ma'am' cricket that has sold it's soul to commericialisation and instant gratification, the KKR batsmen held up the true spirit of the gentleman's game. Not for once did they bring any form of aggression to the 'bhodrolok'er game. And if that was not enough, they imbued the spirit of bonhomie and camaraderie, things with which the game has always been associated, and were more than glad to let the home crowd have a nice time as one after the other they sacrificed their wickets, all for the greater good. But knowing these brash Delhi guys they may not return the favour when they meet again in Kolkata. As if it matters, huh. In the long run when all will be done and dusted and all that will remain would be what you did in your little life here on earth, the KKR players will hold their heads high and say they remained selfless and had just the greater good in mind. I will be merrily chuckling somewhere when the Delhi Dare'Devil's meet Mr. 666 He, he, he how they will shiver and quiver!

Our friend Debraj, a non-resident Bengali, born and brought up in Bihar/Jharakhand had his moment under the sun when in a rare moment of madness some KKR chap gracelessly hit the ball for a six. While we gentlemanly clapped, aping the geriatric crowd at most County matches, Debraj shot up from his seat and let out a blood curdling cry of "Korbo Lorbo Jeetbo REE". The crowd paused as one and looked around. It seemed almost like at anytime someone would start a slow clapping sequence and the players would join. Didn't quite happen that way, we quietly made our way out of the stadium by the end of the over. That reincarnation of a mythical hero had left during the 3rd over of the KKR innings.

On the long way back to mortuary gate I saw it in my wife's eyes - respect. Respect for the team who withheld the true meaning of the game and showed that even in this day and age you can play cricket without ugly slogging. You can come across as friendly and not brimming with that non-peaceful 'killer' instinct. With the madness all around there is still a team which helps maintain the sanity of the game. Respect was writ large.

The we comprised of: Veni, Debraj, Anil, Nikhil, Varun, Divya, Dushyant, Gautam and Varun.

Thanks Dushyant for the stadium photo and last but not the least special thanks to Amit for 'managing' the tickets for us:)

P.S: If there was one moment in the match which could be nominated to enter IPL history books it would be David Hussey's catch of Paul Collingwood. Just outstanding, please see for yourself in the video below

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