India v Pakistan, 4th ODI, Ahmedabad

Cut to the chase

Roving Reporter by Amit Varma in Ahmedabad

April 12, 2005

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Mahendra Singh Dhoni might have replaced local boy Parthiv Patel in the Indian side, but the Gujaratis were still looking forward to seeing him bat © Getty Images
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Gujaratis are expert at constructing order out of chaos. What could have more tumult than the trading floor of a stock exchange, for example? There you will find, making sense of the thousands of transactions that take place in a sea of noise, the Gujarati, calm and precise. Or watch him at work in any market where Gujarati traders sit, and you will be assailed by confusion, by a sense of frenetic desperate activity, but there too, the Gujarati will be in command. Heck, India's freedom movement was guided by a shrewd Gujarati, and though his methods of operating were different from his merchant brethren, he, too, had that ability to not be intimidated by turmoil, to cut to the chase and see the bigger picture clearly while not losing sight of details.

And so it is that as I sit here, at around 7am, at the press box of the Motera Stadium, and noise just swells around me, of people clapping and talking and blowing trumpets or similar wind instruments, of the songs that fill what is left of the air through the loudspeakers.. When I took that long walk to the stadium from where the cops don't allow autorickshaws to proceed, the street was full of people, so many of them, in colourful clothes, holding signs that said "4" on one side and "6" on the other, as if to define the extent of Virender Sehwag's unpredictability. Until I reached the particular gate of the stadium where I entered, no one checked my pass. The people so vastly outnumbered the police; is the security here really taken care of, I wondered.

But the chaos, of course, is deceptive. As I hung around to watch the cops at work, you could make out that they were right on top of things. There was none of the officiousness that marks so many other venues in India, and the security is focussed at all the places where they are needed, like the entry of the stands. They are not on edge because of the bigness of the occasion, nor are they filled with a sense of the power they have. This needs pointing out because it is so different elsewhere. These cops are friendly and courteous, and when they tell me to take that bottle of water out of my bag, and that I'll get water inside, they are gently firm, not typical-Indian-cop boorish.

It's 7.30 as I type this, and the stands are almost full. People here, Gujaratis mostly, are sticking intently on their purpose of coming to this game, which is to have a good time. The administration is sticking intently to their purpose, of enabling the people here to have a good time while ensuring things don't go out of hand. All is well in the world - though a group of people near a Pepsi machine does worry that India may lose the toss. And, despite the fact that their local boy, Parthiv Patel, has been displaced by better contenders, they are waiting to see Mahendra Dhoni bat. "Six maru chhe," says one little boy, and raises his sign. It says, "6". Cut to the chase.

Amit Varma is contributing editor of Cricinfo. He writes the independent blogs, India Uncut and The Middle Stage.

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