Fan Following

First-person reports from the stands

Netherlands v West Indies, Group B, World Cup 2011, Delhi

Not-so-manic Monday

Why would you go watch Netherlands-West Indies on the first night of the week? Because you don't have political connections, and it's a World Cup game after all

Nikhil Jha

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Kieron Pollard hits the ball into the stands, Netherlands v West Indies, Group B, World Cup 2011, Delhi, February 28, 2011
Kieron Pollard: monster hitter © Getty Images
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Choice of game
I know you'll be thinking about the magnitude of my joblessness, considering I turned up for such a match on a Monday. Particularly, since I do not have any connection to either team. But considering the lack of political and corporate connections or one-in-a-million lottery luck, the only things that could get me tickets, I decided to take what I could get. The World Cup was in town after all!

Netherlands' encouraging performance against England raised hopes of this being a good match. I also wanted to see the West Indian stars in action, particularly Darren Bravo, and judge for myself if the resemblance with the great Brian Lara is justified.

Plus I had a personal score to settle with Ramnaresh Sarwan, whose last-ball four at a match I was at in Jamshedpur, led to infamous bottle-throwing mayhem.

Team supported
My Dutch allegiance is quite well known within my circle of friends, and becomes obvious when you see the amount of orange in my wardrobe. However, I wondered if I could extend the support I reserve for the descendants of the legendary Johan Cruyff to the cricket team. My visit to Netherlands made me fall in love with the country and threatened to mask my cricketing judgement. Considering all that, I was a neutral, but I would have been happier to see the Dutch win.

World Cup prediction
Before the tournament started, I would not have thought twice before shouting "India!" along with millions of other fans. Now having seen the other top teams like Australia, South Africa and Sri Lanka play, and Pakistan rise to the occasion, along with our bowling miseries, I'm having second thoughts.

I will still let the fan inside me overpower the cricketing logic, and yell "India!"

Key performer
Everyone chipped in for West Indies: Devon Smith and Chris Gayle at the top of the order, followed by Sarwan. But the one guy who blasted the bowling attack and brought some life into the sparse crowd was Kieron Pollard. His power-hitting also came when West Indies had lost wickets at the start of the Powerplay, and took the total from big to imposing.

Kemar Roach, with his hat-trick and six wickets, was the bowling star, but you would have to think that West Indies would have won regardless.

One thing I'd have changed
I would have loved it if Delhi had hosted the match that went to Bangalore, so I could experience that thrilling encounter rather than this mismatch. However, if my wishes are restricted to this match, I really hoped that Ryan ten Doeschate would produce another of his blinders and that this match would at least be entertaining.

Wow moment
The game and the sparse crowd in attendance were hardly capable of producing a wow moment. But I must mention the beautiful sight that a cricket ground presents from the top tiers once the lights take full effect. It looks like a flawless green carpet, shining in milky limelight, with the players at the centre of it. A sight to behold.

Shot of the day
A tough choice between a classic cricket shot and a crowd-pleasing monstrous hit. Bravo showed traces of that legendary touch, with a trademark silky drive early in his innings. But the shot that stood out was the massive six that Pollard hit, which almost knocked off one of the flags on the top tier of stands. Amazing power!

Crowd meter
The attendance, as you would expect, was dismal. The spectators comprised some school and college students, some curious people living nearby, some foreigners looking for a good time, and various competition prize winners. More people came in in the evening, just in time to watch Pollard go berserk. The biggest cheers were reserved for the IPL hero, and the handfuls of spectators egged him on to hit a six in their direction.

Fancy-dress index
None, really, but later in the evening some excited college students turned up with India flags and indulged in an extended photo shoot, holding the flags in a number of different poses, probably trying to get that perfect Facebook display picture.

The music was diverse: popular recent hits by the Black Eyed Peas and Rihanna, stock stadium songs by Queen and Chumbawamba, the Holi-themed "Rang Barse", and the inexplicable local cult song "Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui".

Banner of the day
There was one, brought in by a bunch of schoolkids, that read "West Indies batsmen, please go Dutch". Cute try, but I don't think it quite qualifies as funny.

ODIs v Twenty20
Being a cricket purist, I would have loved to say Test matches. Since that is not an option, I'll have to say Twenty20s because ODIs seem to be stuck in a "neither here nor there" kind of purgatory zone. If I want to see cricket, I'll go watch Test matches, but for entertainment value, Twenty20s beat ODIs (though this is a brave statement in the face of the India v England game the other night!)

Marks out of 10
5. It wasn't much of a match, but considering the fine individual performances, it qualifies for 5.

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Nikhil Jha is a 26-year-old sports fanatic, whose cricketing career was prematurely ended in school by a bouncer that almost took his eye out. His contributions to the game were cut short by the typical middle-class ambitions that saw him spend four years at IIT, pretending to study engineering, and then go through two unsure professional experiences. He has now decided to chase his calling by starting a sports portal called Big Show, which, he is hopeful, will soon become the second-most adored sports site after ESPNcricinfo.

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