India v West Indies, 1st Test, New Delhi, 3rd day November 8, 2011

An astute crowd at a gaudy stadium

Every empty space at the Feroz Shah Kotla is covered with advertising, but the crowd at the stadium did not need a hoarding to tell them of Sachin Tendulkar's upcoming landmark
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The Feroz Shah Kotla must be the most insalubrious ground in the cricket world; as it rises to its full height, every possible empty space is wallpapered with advertising hoardings, for a range of products that is a study in itself.

It must be the only ground in the world where Sachin Tendulkar can look up from his crease and in his peripheral vision see himself blown up to a two-storey-high megascale, holding a sticker-free cricket bat. It is an advertisement for the cement company he endorses, one of three cement companies that find themselves represented at the stadium.

The unconventional products advertised around the ground included the following: Kamla Pasand and Rajshree (paan masala), Chaini Khaini (chewing tobacco), Haywards (beer), Pataka Chai (tea), Oxyglow Cosmetics, Makita Power Tools, Sanjay Ghodawat Group (a business group in Kolhapur with interests in agriculture, chemicals, real estate, engineering, textiles etc), Red Chief (footwear) and Kaspersky Anti-Virus.

In the middle of this melee of screaming logos, clashing colours and subliminal advertising, a gripping Test match unfolded. Like a racy gangster novel, it was enveloped in smoky atmosphere, replete with unpredictable incident and loaded with the constant possibility of corkscrew turns of events.

Virender Sehwag stripped it of all portent, until of course he decided to leave, with fury-inducing extravagance. India were still 181 short, and the ball was 18 overs old, getting softer and harder to score off.

Enter the "so we meet again" pair of Dravid and Tendulkar. The two oldest (they will both be, jeepers, 39 in less than five months), most skilled men in the Indian dressing room collected their runs as methodical weavers pluck out the warp and the weft. The smoke thickened, the light faded and the setting sun stood like an orange lozenge in the sky.

All the while, the stadium was building up to an event. The sense of expectancy was driven not by television, not by a flashing scoreboard (that responded to minor events on the field with ambiguous messages like "Brilliant/ Great hands/ What a shot"), not by PA announcements, but by the much-condemned Delhi crowd. Their numbers were paltry on the Tuesday but their voices could be heard scattered in the stands. They were counting down.

Not with the help of radio commentary or egged on by TV experts; they had nothing but their own calculations to go by. Twenty eight was the figure in their heads. The last leg of that journey, from 20 to 28, took 28 balls. When the number arrived from Tendulkar's blade, with a humble single off Devendra Bishoo, the crowd leapt to its feet, applauded and cheered. Only then did the scoreboard mention the landmark and flash: "Congrats Sachin, 15,000 Test runs."

To discover what the shouting was all about, Tendulkar checked the screen. When he saw the number, he raised his eyes to the sky, his bat to his team-mates and the crowd, accepted Dravid's congratulations and stood at the non-striker's end as the over played itself out. Four balls later, with only three overs of play left, Dravid almost ran himself out. He had not grounded his bat when crossing over and was perilously close to being in mid-air when the bails came off. The third umpire's decision took an age and, with no replays on the screen, the crowd was mumbling in anxiety, Dravid holding his breath. The result had him exhaling, the crowd cheering and chiding his carelessness.

The day ended with a back-foot drive through extra cover from Dravid, the ideal image the Indian fans would want to take home. The teams returned to their dressing rooms with 124 runs left for India to get, a game to be won or lost, Dravid and Tendulkar still around, and that Other Big Number luring the crowd back for one more morning.

Kotla's hideous advertising? It was like it had vanished.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on November 9, 2011, 6:22 GMT

    Kotla was always a grubby little ground, and dont agree with the astute crowd bit. Doesnt compare with Eden and Chepauk any day. In the mid 1970s, the capacity of the ground was 28,000 and there were no decent toilets. Gaudy stadium yes, in keeping with Delhi's loud hedonistic image. Lajpat Nagar Punjabi shocking pink as they say. Despite ample work prior to the World Cup, still an ugly stadium but a fortress for India. A fortress in terms of results - 7 straight wins from a time when we went 23 yrs without a win from 1969 to 1993.

  • on November 9, 2011, 5:43 GMT

    What exactly is the point about the advertisements in the stadium? You want cheap tickets and also want to have a choice on who should be permitted to advertise or even whether there should be hoardings. While there is a lot of valid criticism that can e directed at the cricket adminsitrators in India, this is really stretching it a bit too far.

  • on November 9, 2011, 4:00 GMT

    @Nampally, Well said. Sad that people read between lines unnecessarily, sometimes. Perhaps, it is a reflection of their view of the world.

  • krishilk on November 9, 2011, 3:25 GMT

    Just want GOD to get his hundred to and get that monkey off his back........

    then he can concentrate on getting 2 more century in one dayers to make it 50 hundreds.......

    nobody will ever catch the master..........

  • Romenevans on November 9, 2011, 3:23 GMT

    What's impressive is that when Harbhajan don't take wicket he says that pitch is not turning or the opposition takes him seriously and blocks him to save wickets (LOL) but now ashwin proved that spinners can also do well when the pitch is not turning. Most of ashwin's wickets were deceived in ball trajectory, variations and sudden change in lengths as well. Pitch wasn't turning as it always does in India, but ashwin and Ojha both bowled brilliantly with their variations. Sorry bhajji, you haven't made it large.

  • on November 9, 2011, 2:09 GMT

    @redneck. As much I hate to say this, Dravid has never been a good runner between the wickets.. He has never been quick also.. I have seen him making very basic error like not grounding his bat.. He has got OUT once, in this fashion.. And he had a similar moment yesterday too.. Having said all this, I doesn't mean anything disrespect to this legend.. He has always been our WALL and will always be.. He and Sachin has always been my most fav cricketers..

  • on November 9, 2011, 1:40 GMT

    what BCCI is doing with money, atleast improve grounds, shame its Delhi and ground is absolutely dirty in all aspects.Where is infrastructure?Bangladesh has good grounds than India..shame!

  • Nampally on November 9, 2011, 1:19 GMT

    @Haleos: Sir, I am not from Tamilnadu & I have no personal interests in any individual. I played lot of top class cricket in India but now moved to West, being involved in lot of High tech. Eng'g. Being a fervent cricket lover & Indian fan, I can spot talent better than most.I watch cricket on PC. I have backed Ojha, Rahul Sharma & Ashwin as 3 top class Indian spinners for more than a year,as evident from my several write ups in cricinfo columns. Harbhajan was a great spinner once but for the past 18 months he was very poor (2 wkts @ 141 runs/wkt in England tests).Indian selectors were too scared to drop him out of respect. Finally Ojha & Ashwin got their chance after being benched so long for Bhaiji. They took 16 wkts. betwn. them.These are 25 year olds & can't be benched for ever.If Rahul had played I bet WI would have been skittled for much lower total in both the innings. I back a player if I see talent in him irrespective of his origin - N.S,E orW.They are all cricketers First.

  • on November 9, 2011, 1:02 GMT

    This is not the right time to argue &counter argue about Spinners of India! let us wait for the net. Outcome of the Match which was brought to this stage by the able Bowling of Aswin.No one can dispute that. now it is time for all to wish India every success in this Test which looked impossible one to win. but against all odds Aswin& Sehwag made it a test match ever to remember! now a win & perhaps a 100 th Century by Sachin is what We all should pray for.If Sachin achieves it,it is an insurance for the Great impossible victory in this Test. All the Best to Sachin&INDIA Sreedharan Mundanat,TCR

  • on November 9, 2011, 0:51 GMT

    Lovely article by Sharda. Finally, someone could write about the worst looking cricket ground in the world in a subtle way. I wish there is a blogger who can criticize it more vocally. The rework done by DDCA has ruined the cricket ground further. The wicket has always been miserable and lives up to its misery.

  • on November 9, 2011, 6:22 GMT

    Kotla was always a grubby little ground, and dont agree with the astute crowd bit. Doesnt compare with Eden and Chepauk any day. In the mid 1970s, the capacity of the ground was 28,000 and there were no decent toilets. Gaudy stadium yes, in keeping with Delhi's loud hedonistic image. Lajpat Nagar Punjabi shocking pink as they say. Despite ample work prior to the World Cup, still an ugly stadium but a fortress for India. A fortress in terms of results - 7 straight wins from a time when we went 23 yrs without a win from 1969 to 1993.

  • on November 9, 2011, 5:43 GMT

    What exactly is the point about the advertisements in the stadium? You want cheap tickets and also want to have a choice on who should be permitted to advertise or even whether there should be hoardings. While there is a lot of valid criticism that can e directed at the cricket adminsitrators in India, this is really stretching it a bit too far.

  • on November 9, 2011, 4:00 GMT

    @Nampally, Well said. Sad that people read between lines unnecessarily, sometimes. Perhaps, it is a reflection of their view of the world.

  • krishilk on November 9, 2011, 3:25 GMT

    Just want GOD to get his hundred to and get that monkey off his back........

    then he can concentrate on getting 2 more century in one dayers to make it 50 hundreds.......

    nobody will ever catch the master..........

  • Romenevans on November 9, 2011, 3:23 GMT

    What's impressive is that when Harbhajan don't take wicket he says that pitch is not turning or the opposition takes him seriously and blocks him to save wickets (LOL) but now ashwin proved that spinners can also do well when the pitch is not turning. Most of ashwin's wickets were deceived in ball trajectory, variations and sudden change in lengths as well. Pitch wasn't turning as it always does in India, but ashwin and Ojha both bowled brilliantly with their variations. Sorry bhajji, you haven't made it large.

  • on November 9, 2011, 2:09 GMT

    @redneck. As much I hate to say this, Dravid has never been a good runner between the wickets.. He has never been quick also.. I have seen him making very basic error like not grounding his bat.. He has got OUT once, in this fashion.. And he had a similar moment yesterday too.. Having said all this, I doesn't mean anything disrespect to this legend.. He has always been our WALL and will always be.. He and Sachin has always been my most fav cricketers..

  • on November 9, 2011, 1:40 GMT

    what BCCI is doing with money, atleast improve grounds, shame its Delhi and ground is absolutely dirty in all aspects.Where is infrastructure?Bangladesh has good grounds than India..shame!

  • Nampally on November 9, 2011, 1:19 GMT

    @Haleos: Sir, I am not from Tamilnadu & I have no personal interests in any individual. I played lot of top class cricket in India but now moved to West, being involved in lot of High tech. Eng'g. Being a fervent cricket lover & Indian fan, I can spot talent better than most.I watch cricket on PC. I have backed Ojha, Rahul Sharma & Ashwin as 3 top class Indian spinners for more than a year,as evident from my several write ups in cricinfo columns. Harbhajan was a great spinner once but for the past 18 months he was very poor (2 wkts @ 141 runs/wkt in England tests).Indian selectors were too scared to drop him out of respect. Finally Ojha & Ashwin got their chance after being benched so long for Bhaiji. They took 16 wkts. betwn. them.These are 25 year olds & can't be benched for ever.If Rahul had played I bet WI would have been skittled for much lower total in both the innings. I back a player if I see talent in him irrespective of his origin - N.S,E orW.They are all cricketers First.

  • on November 9, 2011, 1:02 GMT

    This is not the right time to argue &counter argue about Spinners of India! let us wait for the net. Outcome of the Match which was brought to this stage by the able Bowling of Aswin.No one can dispute that. now it is time for all to wish India every success in this Test which looked impossible one to win. but against all odds Aswin& Sehwag made it a test match ever to remember! now a win & perhaps a 100 th Century by Sachin is what We all should pray for.If Sachin achieves it,it is an insurance for the Great impossible victory in this Test. All the Best to Sachin&INDIA Sreedharan Mundanat,TCR

  • on November 9, 2011, 0:51 GMT

    Lovely article by Sharda. Finally, someone could write about the worst looking cricket ground in the world in a subtle way. I wish there is a blogger who can criticize it more vocally. The rework done by DDCA has ruined the cricket ground further. The wicket has always been miserable and lives up to its misery.

  • peterss on November 9, 2011, 0:10 GMT

    @Haleos: Doesnt matter whether your are from TN or not. This is national cricket man not domestic. Ashwin has had an outstanding debut and honestly, i think he has ensured his selection ahead of harbhajan. Not yet a better bowler than bhajji but certainly the potential to be a better bowler is there. Btw, harbhajan was never a great bowler he was always under the shadow and saved by kumble's performances. He has rarely won matches single handedly. (He has but seldom)

  • SRAM20 on November 9, 2011, 0:03 GMT

    Ashwin reminds us of Anil Kumble with his height, accuracy and the line he bowls. Also like Kumble, Ashwin is not a very big turner of the ball but he has lot of variations to confuse and consume batsmen. And Ashwin is a South Indian like Kumble, and also is as calm and thoughtful as Kumble (the co-incidence don't end here; both of them are software engineers too :D). I am keeping my fingers crossed that we have hopefully found a replacement for Jumbo (Kumble). Mishra is now completely out of the equation. It should be between Ashwin, Ojha and Harbhajan (w/ Rahul Sharma as 4th backup).

  • orangtan on November 8, 2011, 23:52 GMT

    Sad indeed that India's capital city's stadium is such an ugly monolith. what is worse, facilities for the paying public are rudimentary, where else in the world would you not have ticket counters at the ground ? Yet, if India can achieve victory, the stoic and knowledgeable crowd will be very happy. Hats off to these true aficionados of the game.

  • redneck on November 8, 2011, 22:55 GMT

    irronic that his 15000th run came in the 4th innings, the one innings his detractors say he always fails in. well done to him, but watching dravid and he run between wickets was shocking considering these are 2 of the most capped and acomplished test cricketers to ever walk the earth. back to the article why i do find the advertising a bit over the top at ALL indian grounds! eg. 3 cement companies and they all have similar yellow background with writting in the same font????? as if all 3 are happy forking out sponsership money for signs at the cricket when they have 2 competitors getting equal signage??? having said that stand at one end of the kotla has to be the most unique stand going around in world cricket, cant stop looking at it when ever its shown on tv. getting your advertising on it would be a sure way to guarentee your product or brand is noticed.

  • Krishna_M on November 8, 2011, 22:39 GMT

    Nice perspective to those not at the ground. The astuteness of the crowd was probably partly due to the slashing of ticket prices that might have tempted more knowledgeable people who can't afford the regular prices or don't get the freebie tickets reserved for the netas, govt employees or friends of he DDCA. The latter probably want to only cone for high profile ODI or T20 games. We are better off without them in a sense & given a choice, a smaller but more knowledgeable crowd might arguably be better. But given the possibility of that Other Big Number tomorrow, we might see the crowd that's in sync w the insalubrious ground & adverts back in force tomorrow!

  • cricmatters on November 8, 2011, 22:38 GMT

    Both Sehwag and Gambhir are attacking batsmen, always looking for runs even taking calculated risks to score quickly. They also frustate the bowlers by seeing off the new bowl which makes it easier for our middle order. We missed them badly in England as our middle order was exposed too early to the new bowl. Hope they continue their form in Australia.

  • Commenter123 on November 8, 2011, 22:12 GMT

    I think it kinda helps if you guys add a couple of pics, when you write an article about a venue. A tleast it will help people who does not have access to 24/7 cricket matches.

    Ok, i understand that'd be free advertisement for the companies. Never mind, move along!

  • RohanBhalerao on November 8, 2011, 22:10 GMT

    Beautiful! One word that describes your writing Ma'am..! It is as much a pleasure to read this as to anticipate any SRT century!

  • Haleos on November 8, 2011, 21:54 GMT

    @Nampally - I bet u r from tamilnadu. Ashwin had a brilliant ddebut which he deserved long time back. But dont write off harbhajan yet. Ashwin has done well enough in limited overs but this was his first test. Hirwani took 16 wickets on his debut but faded afterwards. Let Ashwin perfom for as long as Bhajji has done and then blow ur horns.

  • correctcall on November 8, 2011, 21:47 GMT

    Or should that be hideous pitch - ask the WI Captain re his dismissal!

  • DalesGuy on November 8, 2011, 21:23 GMT

    I agree with ggsp. We all know too well how Harbhajan arrived at the Test arena with BANG and hatrick etc but then we all know well again how he never reached the kind of height we all expected him to. A Test average never came down below 30 and lots of start - stop peformances ended in a misery. I hope Ashwin grab his chance and show some credible performance against Australia.

  • ggsg on November 8, 2011, 20:30 GMT

    mr Nampally it would be to early to call or compare harbhajan and ashwin. Ashwin is good bowler and new to scene happy to see him perform. But it does not mean fans to bring down a player who has performed over the years. any way good luck to india congrats sachin tendulkar for 15000 + runs and thank you for it.

  • Nampally on November 8, 2011, 19:51 GMT

    Day 3 was meant to provide corrections of several items for India. Ashwin with his brilliant performance showed that he is far better bowler than harbhajan with his doora, Carrom ball & off spinners. He nailed his spot as the future Indian off spinner in Tests in addition to other formats. He can no longer be passed over by Bhaiji. Sehwag showed once more what a domionant striker of ball he is- second fifty of the game at strike rate of 100 or better!.Enough to demoralize the best opponent teams. Then came the 15,000 land mark by Tendulkar. He had to literally fight his way to that mark because he is short of practice & rusty. Last but not the least Dravid showed once again why he is the wall. Now on Day 4 Dravid & Tendulkar carry the responsibility of completing the job by carrying India over to the winning line.These 2 legends have played many a heroic innings for India over the past 20 years. Can they still have the concentration to finish the job at the Kotla? YES, THEY CAN !!.

  • sweetspot on November 8, 2011, 19:38 GMT

    HIDEOUS - one word that says aplenty about the Kotla.

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  • sweetspot on November 8, 2011, 19:38 GMT

    HIDEOUS - one word that says aplenty about the Kotla.

  • Nampally on November 8, 2011, 19:51 GMT

    Day 3 was meant to provide corrections of several items for India. Ashwin with his brilliant performance showed that he is far better bowler than harbhajan with his doora, Carrom ball & off spinners. He nailed his spot as the future Indian off spinner in Tests in addition to other formats. He can no longer be passed over by Bhaiji. Sehwag showed once more what a domionant striker of ball he is- second fifty of the game at strike rate of 100 or better!.Enough to demoralize the best opponent teams. Then came the 15,000 land mark by Tendulkar. He had to literally fight his way to that mark because he is short of practice & rusty. Last but not the least Dravid showed once again why he is the wall. Now on Day 4 Dravid & Tendulkar carry the responsibility of completing the job by carrying India over to the winning line.These 2 legends have played many a heroic innings for India over the past 20 years. Can they still have the concentration to finish the job at the Kotla? YES, THEY CAN !!.

  • ggsg on November 8, 2011, 20:30 GMT

    mr Nampally it would be to early to call or compare harbhajan and ashwin. Ashwin is good bowler and new to scene happy to see him perform. But it does not mean fans to bring down a player who has performed over the years. any way good luck to india congrats sachin tendulkar for 15000 + runs and thank you for it.

  • DalesGuy on November 8, 2011, 21:23 GMT

    I agree with ggsp. We all know too well how Harbhajan arrived at the Test arena with BANG and hatrick etc but then we all know well again how he never reached the kind of height we all expected him to. A Test average never came down below 30 and lots of start - stop peformances ended in a misery. I hope Ashwin grab his chance and show some credible performance against Australia.

  • correctcall on November 8, 2011, 21:47 GMT

    Or should that be hideous pitch - ask the WI Captain re his dismissal!

  • Haleos on November 8, 2011, 21:54 GMT

    @Nampally - I bet u r from tamilnadu. Ashwin had a brilliant ddebut which he deserved long time back. But dont write off harbhajan yet. Ashwin has done well enough in limited overs but this was his first test. Hirwani took 16 wickets on his debut but faded afterwards. Let Ashwin perfom for as long as Bhajji has done and then blow ur horns.

  • RohanBhalerao on November 8, 2011, 22:10 GMT

    Beautiful! One word that describes your writing Ma'am..! It is as much a pleasure to read this as to anticipate any SRT century!

  • Commenter123 on November 8, 2011, 22:12 GMT

    I think it kinda helps if you guys add a couple of pics, when you write an article about a venue. A tleast it will help people who does not have access to 24/7 cricket matches.

    Ok, i understand that'd be free advertisement for the companies. Never mind, move along!

  • cricmatters on November 8, 2011, 22:38 GMT

    Both Sehwag and Gambhir are attacking batsmen, always looking for runs even taking calculated risks to score quickly. They also frustate the bowlers by seeing off the new bowl which makes it easier for our middle order. We missed them badly in England as our middle order was exposed too early to the new bowl. Hope they continue their form in Australia.

  • Krishna_M on November 8, 2011, 22:39 GMT

    Nice perspective to those not at the ground. The astuteness of the crowd was probably partly due to the slashing of ticket prices that might have tempted more knowledgeable people who can't afford the regular prices or don't get the freebie tickets reserved for the netas, govt employees or friends of he DDCA. The latter probably want to only cone for high profile ODI or T20 games. We are better off without them in a sense & given a choice, a smaller but more knowledgeable crowd might arguably be better. But given the possibility of that Other Big Number tomorrow, we might see the crowd that's in sync w the insalubrious ground & adverts back in force tomorrow!