Sitting in the stands

Just the day prior to her annual mathematics examination, I, as a sensible and concerned parent, took my daughter to the stadium for an IPL match. If you think it’s stupid, then the fault is entirely the school’s, as it did not have the foresight to consult Lalit Modi before finalising the examination fixtures.

Anyway, there is one major difference between watching a cricket match on the TV and being a spectator at the stadium. And that is —- you may want to write this down —– you can escape the advertisements on TV. But at the stadium there is so much bombardment of ads and commercials that sooner or later you will have to come out with your forearms tattooed with the sponsors’ names. Lalit Modi, for the record, has tattooed his, no forget it.

In general, a day at the stadium is full of fun and frolic, like you have just participated in a war manoeuvre in a desert.

Here are some snapshots from the stand where I was sitting.

Giant Screen

Call me old-fashioned or call me an inscrutable romantic. But nothing in the world quite matches the exhilaration and excitement that come with being, in flesh and blood, at a cavernous cricket stadium and cheering wildly at the non-stop action that comes up on the giant screen.

The giant screen is a truly marvellous construct. On it, the players view themselves playing, the spectators watch themselves spectating, the sponsors see themselves sponsoring. Only the umpires see themselves exposed. But never mind. It is centre to cricket like Mandira’s noodle straps.

If there were no big screens at the stadium most people (certainly those like me) would be waiting till the arrival of the newspapers to even figure out who won the match. Of course, with journalists like me around, they will not be any wiser even after reading the match reports.

Yuvraj or bureau?

The other important functionality of the giant screen at the stadium is to confirm that Dhoni is indeed Dhoni.

Let me explain in detail. Many die-hard followers of the game turn up at stadiums wanting to have a close glimpse of their favourite stars. This is entirely possible if the said star is not playing in the match and is instead sitting in the stands along with the fans. Otherwise, fans need to come armed with a Hubble Telescope to have a real intimate view of the players.

Most of the action in a cricket match seems to happen several kilometres away from the spectators, making the players seem like crazed ants. And much of the time, you, as a spectator, have to check with the next-seat neighbour whether the person batting is, say Yuvraj Singh, or is it a industry-size bureau doing double duty at the cricket pitch. Your next-seat neighbour will ask his, and he will in turn ask his, setting off a massive chain reaction, eventually triggering a Mexican wave of sorts. There is only person whom the spectators have no difficulty in identifying. Yes, you’re right: He is a Mumbaikar. Yes, you’re spot on: He is Ajith Agarkar!

Spot on

If the players are so indistinguishable, imagine how difficult will it be to spot the cricket ball, which in reality, will have to look no bigger than the dot with which they denote small towns on a smallish map? But cricket fans are possessed of some extraordinary vision, which helps them see better than the umpire positioned near the stumps with the explicit purpose of watching the cricket ball.  ‘YOU THINK THAT BALL PITCHED IN LINE.  HE’S  (a censored word) BLIND’, is a true fan’s typical description of the umpire who gives Sachin out LBW. But, if truth be told, even thosefans not at the stadium will pronounce the umpire to be blind  if he had given Sachin out. Well, any sport that has Ajith Agarkar playing in it will have fans like this.

A cricket fan is also that miraculous person, who is capable of hearing the sound of the faint snick from a bat, over the decibels of several thousand other fans bellowing at the top of their voices. How do the fans manage to pull this off? Well, the cricket stadium is a truly amazing place and magical actions are regular here. Even the inflation gallops here. At least it galloped tremendously when I was there in the stadium with my daughter.

A plate of samosas that goes for Rs.10 outside was available for Rs.60. Either samosa rates had also joined the non-stop action that Twenty20 promises. Or it could also have been a case of the IPL administrators planning to recover the millions they had invested in the game through the sales of samosas.

I couldn’t decide on which because they weren’t showing that on the giant screen.

But as far as I can gauge from the distance I was sitting, the team in yellow triumphed. How come I am so sure? Yes, Ajith Agarkar wasn’t playing for them.

I am also sure my daughter will clear her exams. Her name is not, well you know that.