Fan Following

First-person reports from the stands

India v England, second Test, Mumbai

Praying for Pujara, and Monty's antics

England are in town so revenge is the order of the day

Saurav Dey

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Cheteshwar Pujara guided India briefly with 48, India v New Zealand, 2nd Test, Bangalore, 4th day, September 3, 2012
Cheteshwar Pujara: seven Tests old and has quite the fan following © Associated Press
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Players/Officials: Monty Panesar | Cheteshwar Pujara
Series/Tournaments: England tour of India
Teams: England | India

Choice of game
Any game in Mumbai is always on my agenda. I even attended all three days of the tour game between India A v England XI, so there was no way I was letting this one go by. Other incentives included it being the revenge series, Virender Sehwag's 100th Test and, probably, Sachin Tendulkar's last Test at the Wankhede.

The previous Test played at the Wankhede ended on a draw with the scores tied, so I was hoping this match would be at least half as exciting as that one. Though India started as favourites on a turning track, I thought England had a chance too, with Monty Panesar making a comeback.

Key performer
Like he did in the previous Test, Cheteshwar Pujara played a splendid innings. He looked equally competent in his defence and attack, and though he got a life and had a few close calls, he was the difference between the two sides. He has already scored more than 350 runs in this series and the crowds are seeing him as Dravid 2.0. The Wankhede reverberated with the chants of "Pu-ja-ra Pu-ja-ra" during the last session.

One thing I'd have changed
From the start of the game, there were whispers of this being Tendulkar's last Test on his home ground, and predictably, he got a massive cheer when he walked in. But his departure soon after stunned the crowd in to silence. When the dismissal was replayed on the giant screen a few times, the crowd groaned in unison (even (though Monty's exuberant reaction drew some giggles). Tendulkar was due for a big one here, and the crowd had hoped he would raise his bat one last time in a Test match at the Wankhede. Still, there is one more innings to go.

Face-off I relished
Panesar's brilliant comeback left India reeling at 169 for 6. He looked dangerous and bowled more than a third of England's overs.

Filling the gaps
During the lunch break, I wandered around the North Stand to check out the views offered from all corners of the stand. I realised that though the seats at level 2 offered the best view of the ground, the atmosphere was much more vibrant at level 3.

Wow moment
When R Ashwin hit his first boundary, the ball crawled towards the boundary the way Ashwin runs, almost in slow-motion, with the fielder in hot pursuit. The crowd cheered the ball every inch of the way and burst into an ecstatic roar once it crossed the rope.

But the moment of the day belonged to Pujara. At 94, Pujara pulled Graeme Swann and the ball ricocheted off short leg's boot to midwicket's hands. As the England players celebrated, the crowd stayed silent. Soon, we realised the decision had been referred to the third umpire and a chant of "Ganapati bappa morya" took off from somewhere and spread through the stadium. The spectators were in a frenzy when Pujara was given not out, and when he pulled James Anderson for a boundary to get to his hundred, Pujara raised his bat, acknowledging the support of the crowd.

During the last few matches I watched at stadiums, I thought my presence was jinxing Indian cricketers. Tendulkar got out on 94 in the Test against West Indies, Rohit Sharma for 95 in the one-dayer against West Indies in Motera and Manoj Tiwary for 93 in the tour match before this series. When England claimed the catch off Pujara, I thought I had maintained my record. I was glad the jinx was broken when he got to his hundred.

Close encounter
The two most popular players in the England side are Kevin Pietersen and Panesar. Monty was cheered whenever he was seen near the boundary line. In the second session, he pretended to do some freehand exercises near the rope, which made people laugh and shout, "Bas bas, Monty, bahut ho gaya [That's enough, Monty"] and "Kya hua, thak gaya? [Are you tired?"].

During the 64th over of the match, Sourav Ganguly walked by the boundary line while on a break from his commentary duties. When the crowd noticed him from a distance, they temporarily forgot about the match and chanted "Dada, Dada".

Shot of the day
A couple of overs after Tendulkar's dismissal, Pujara played a glorious upper-cut off Stuart Broad, reminding everyone of the Little Master.

Crowd meter
In the morning, the crowd was thin, but the stands filled up as the match progressed. By tea, the stadium was more than half full. Having watched cricket at various grounds across India, I can vouch for the Wankhede crowd being the liveliest of them all. The atmosphere is always festive, with the sound of drumbeats and chants filling the air.

Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh got standing ovations. The crowd chanted Dhoni's name when his dismissal was referred to the third umpire and when he was given out, some members of the Barmy Army put their fingers on their lips, cheekily indicating the home crowd to shut up.

Fancy-dress index
The fancy Malinga wigs and faces painted with the Indian tricolour were the order of the day. The Barmy Army was scattered through the stadium, with banners of their local cricket clubs. There was even a "Shakespeare Cricket Club" somewhere in the North Stand. The "Bharat Army" was also conspicuous with its huge tricolour banner.

Tests v limited-overs
A Test match is more relaxing to watch. You can soak in the atmosphere better than in an ODI or a Twenty20, where you are always engaged with the on-field. But they all have their own charm.

Banner of the day
A gloomy-looking poster on the North Stand read: "Sach is our life - Mumbaikars"

Marks out of 10
8. The Wankhede is a great stadium to watch cricket in, and the day's play was of high quality. It would have been 10 had Tendulkar scored a century.

Want to do a Fan Following report? Read our FAQ here
Saurav Dey is a creative consultant but prefers to spend most of his time watching cricket. He believes that cricket is best watched from the grounds and hopes to cover all the Test and ODI venues in the world someday and write a book about them. He also aspires to create his own "Bharat Army" and travel around the world.

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