March 21, 2009

Sidharth Monga on India in New Zealand 2008-09

The lure of rugby

Sidharth Monga

There are perks of living in a motel next to the Waikato Stadium, but not when the Chiefs v Blues rugby game is scheduled one-and-a-half hours after India win their first Test in New Zealand in more than 33 years. One wants to watch the match between the teams from Hamilton and neighbours Auckland, but there is stuff to be filed for the cricket.

Seddon Park and the Waikato Stadium are not far from each other. It’s just a seven-minute walk, enough to tempt one into the rugby match, too. The rugby fans are different from those at the cricket ground. They won’t be taking portable chairs, crosswords and tea thermoses. They have beers and whistles and other noise-making instruments. The atmosphere they promise is not bad for a change.

Stadium Motel, home for the last week, is one drop kick – not to be confused with the wrestling move - away from where all the action is headed. The road leading to Willoughby Street – where the stadium and the motel are – looks different today. There are police officers managing the traffic and pedestrians. One of the policemen was also seen at the cricket ground. Going to both cricket and rugby isn’t a luxury others can afford.

There is a crane, about 40-foot high, placed just outside the stadium, a man atop it is using a chainsaw to create noises similar to the bikes in the Well of Death. During the game, the crowd’s volume rises in a crescendo with every move by the Chiefs. And there are quite a few of them in the Chiefs' 63-34 win. It’s impossible to keep sitting inside and write on a game that is long over. One has to go out to catch a glimpse of what is happening. Twice in five minutes the ball lands in the front yard, as the crowd goes delirious with the scoring.

A young man tries to run away with the ball, but the policeman is alert. One also notices that in the first floor of the motel, a TV is playing the rugby match. Why would one watch the match on TV when it is actually being played next doors? One suspects it is Jonathan Millmow, former New Zealand fast bowler, who now writes on cricket for the Dominion Post. Jonathan is staying in the same motel. But one doesn’t want to go up and disturb, tomorrow is a good time to find out.

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Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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