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As Indian fans got their first taste of Twenty20, Nagraj Gollapudi soaked up the electrifying atmosphere in Mumbai
Nagraj Gollapudi in Mumbai
October 20, 2007
The open-roof double decker bus that had carried the ecstatic Twenty20 world champions through a rainy Mumbai day just about a month ago circled around the Brabourne Stadium. It was a smart advertising move before India hosted its first Twenty20 international, and the growing popularity of the format was there for all to see.
Thousands stood in queues that ran almost a kilometre around the ground. It was oppressively humid and the teeming masses were drenched in sweat by the time they made it to the plastic chairs for which they had paid between Rs 500 and Rs 10,000 (approx US$ 12.5 to $250). What's more, Adam Gilchrist had already finished his five-ball cameo before most could settle in.
The inaugural World Twenty20 came in for serious praise with regard to the organisation of the tournament. The tickets were affordable and the spectators were treated to quality facilities and cricket alike. Here, though, it was completely different. It is staggering when you have people shelling out thousands and then needing to do without basics like water, mobile phones and cameras.
Sprucing up the grounds and putting in place safety measures like meshes and moats to curtail bad crowd behaviour, can be a starting point. The BCCI, as always, is still playing catch-up and doesn't seem to have learned from its mistakes. Racist crowd behaviour has been the talking point of the tour. Andrew Symonds was at the receiving end in Vadodara and Mumbai, but instead of making the spectators aware of the punishments in store, the police, with their backs to the crowd, were more intent on the action in the ring. The monkey chants that were aired - and this writer could hear plenty emanating from the north-east stand - seemed to go unnoticed.
Ringing out loud and clear were refrains like, "Inky, pinky, ponky, Symonds is a donkey" and "Aey-o, aey-o, Symonds sucks". Every move Symonds made was booed, and he was welcomed to the bowling crease with chants of "Simon, go back". This was not the first-time the notorious Mumbai crowds have shown their ugly side, and unless action is taken soon, it will not be the last.
The behaviour of certain sections may have been unpardonable but the atmosphere was totally abuzz. Bollywood remixes and age-old rock anthems were piped in on the PA, and the crowd followed the twists of the cheerleaders - foreign girls imported to keep the intensity alive. As Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa and Yuvraj Singh crashed the ball around, the Indian fans sang, danced, and clapped along to Queen's "We Will Rock You". Both young and old enjoyed their first taste of international Twenty20 cricket in the country.
A year ago India had kept its distance from the format. The BCCI was forced to organise its first domestic event in order to be able to pick a team for the World Cup in South Africa. Going by the evidence on offer this evening, those present at the Brabourne would readily concede that it wasn't just a victory for the home side but one for the format as well.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at CricinfoFeeds: Nagraj Gollapudi
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