IPL fever can be felt everywhere in this country right now, but if you want to stay away from it and not know who is playing in the middle and not realise what is the result of the match, the place that I would readily recommend is one of the corporate boxes at the M A Chidambaram stadium.
This season I have been to a few matches, one of which was watched from the ground-level closed-door air-conditioned box near the pavilion, offering a panoramic view of many things that I would otherwise have missed if I had chosen to follow the match from anywhere else. For instance, I now have a clear idea how the players’ dugout looks from behind. (It is totally dark).
In general the view we got was the same as the one we would have experienced if we had chosen to watch the game from inside a battle tank. Luckily for us, we could get a clear glimpse of the giant electronic scoreboard, which, as the name clearly makes it out, kept us abreast of the all the latest advertisements. As far as the happenings of the match in the centre, we at the stadium got all our discernment from Twitter most of whose users were, of course, following the game on Cricinfo, which, of course, depends on TV for its live updates because the BCCI has prevented it from operating anywhere near the stadium. That is how ‘live’ our experience was.
Having once been a cricket correspondent of sorts, watching a match from an enclosed box is not exactly new to me. But when you are a cricket reporter, you are not exactly looking for a good view of the ground. You are exactly looking for a place that is closest to the power socket ( for your laptop). In my experience, the one person in the stadium who catches the least amount of action on the field has to be the cricket reporter covering the match. The other one who comes closest to him, I think, has to be the team’s coach. (A coach, or the ‘mentor’ that today’s cricket teams are so fond of, not only doesn’t watch the match but also distracts those sitting close to him by jabbering constantly to them. Exhibit A: K Srikkanth of Sun Risers. I think he needs to strong shots of anaesthesia to actually stop talking).
A cricket reporter, in this internet era of hourly updates and quick features, needs to file several ‘copies’. And this the reporter cannot manage if he were wasting his time in extraneous activities like watching the match. At least I didn’t because I was busy crafting sentences like: ‘The ball, coming in from an angle, pitched on the off-stump, and darted, as if impelled by an invisible bow, towards the leg-stump, hitting Steve Waugh on the high part of his back pad, which the umpire failed to spot’. Actually from the heights of the press box, leave alone the trajectory of the ball, the trajectory of the bowler itself is a bit hazy.
There is a unique excitement and throb to watching cricket matches in the stadium and modern-day state-of-the-art press boxes are built exactly to mute all that out. They give you the feeling as if you are following the match from inside a doctor’s waiting room. So when you come across a line like, say, ‘the sound that greeted Tendulkar’s audacious pull for six was something that could have been heard in the nearest planet’, you can be fairly certain that either the reporter is lying or you are reading a report from around 2010 because that was the time when Tendulkar looked anywhere near being playing that kind of exciting cricket.
Back to the corporate boxes I began with, these specialty enclosures are operated under the commonsense logic that the one thing that a cricket fan basically comes looking for in a cricket stadium is food. The food is not free though, as its cost is built into the ticket price. But the ticket is free. At least that is what I think it has to be. For, I can’t imagine that there are individuals in this world who would pay from their own pocket upwards of Rs.7500 per for following cricket in the same manner that you would when your examinations are on —- you vaguely figure out what is happening by the sounds and strains of the next-door folks watching it on their TV.
But I will not say that I did not have any excitement in the corporate box on the day I was there. With nothing much to actually see on the field, the guy in the next seat was filling in to his friend scene-by-scene details of Iron Man 3 that he had apparently caught on a 3D screen. Robert Downey Jr seemed more interesting than Brendon McCullum that day.
Back home, daughter excitedly asked how was the match and how was the view, I, tiredly removing my glasses, replied ‘pretty good. The IMAX experience made it all the more Stark’.