First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
I picked the Australia-Canada game mainly because tickets were easily available, but we were also hoping for an Ireland-style World Cup upset, however slim the chances were of that happening. Since it was a weekday and a non-India game the stadium was 70% empty, so my father and I had lots of seats to ourselves, and could stretch out and watch the game in total peace.
Canada, as they needed all the support they could get. It also helped that nearly all the players were of subcontinental origin, almost like a second Indian team. Whenever Balaji Rao came on to bowl, the few thousand in the stadium roared like they were present in full strength. Shame I couldn't buy any Canada flags, though.
World Cup prediction
South Africa are my bet, as they have the most fearsome bowlers (they're the only team so far to take all 10 wickets in each match!) and most of their batsmen are in great form, like Australia's. There isn't any superficial hype surrounding them, unlike India, and they seem like such a happy, united team. Australia seem stronger at the moment but I think it's someone else's cup this year.
Hiral Patel, for the way he surprised everyone with his 54 off 45 balls. No one expected Canada to make as much as they did in 10 overs. In fact, when we entered the stadium, the man at the ticket counter told us that he hoped Canada would bat first so that he could go home by 5pm.
Shane Watson and Brad Haddin played really well, too, even though they bored everybody in the ground for the first 10 overs of the Australian innings. They played responsibly, and showed no impatience, and when they finally started smashing sixes to all parts of the ground, they looked like there was no dismissing them. When they did get out, their wickets looked like gifts to the Canadians.
One thing I'd have changed
There was no parking around the Chinnaswamy Stadium, so we had to park our vehicle close to the nearby Kanteerva stadium and walk back. Then we had to walk 1.5 kms to collect our tickets, and walk all around the ground again to enter it. By the time we finally got past security, who repeatedly asked us whether we had photography equipment, and into our stand, we were quite irritated. I don't understand the no-photography rule. It seems to rob cricket fans of an important part of the experience of watching a game - preserving memories of it.
Face-off I relished
Shaun Tait versus Ashish Bagai, the Canadian captain, was interesting. Bagai's straight, lofted four against Tait, and then a similar shot off the next ball (which was stopped at the boundary) were treats to watch. Tait got Bagai in the 28th over, caught behind off a short, wide ball that he needn't have tried to slash.
There were several pariah kites swooping around the stadium, chasing what looked to me like pigeons. The floodlights were on, and one dived incredibly quickly down to the ground, blocking the light for a second, and veered back up in a flash.
Cameron White fielded close to the west boundary, where we were, occasionally scowling up at our seats. There were a few who heckled him, calling him "Blackie"- which wasn't tasteful or funny.
John Davison and Harvir Baidwan patrolled our boundary during Australia's innings. The latter gave us small waves and a sheepish sort of grin, and John Davison smiled at the crowd often. The same characters who heckled White kept saying, "Davey, Davey, hogi bowling maadi!" ("Go bowl some!")
A pair of binoculars came in handy for watching the batsmen's grips, the expression of the captain when catches were dropped, and the pariah kites.
Shot of the day
Shane Watson's huge slog-swept six, which went at least 10 rows back into the stand next to the pavilion. From where I was sitting I could see the arc of the ball's path perfectly as it flew from Watson's bat to the ground many, many metres away.
The stands were nearly empty, but the east section filled up steadily as Canada's innings came to a close. But the way the crowd yelled when the big screen announced the "city scream contest" belied the numbers the stadium held - it was as loud as anything I've ever heard in a cricket stadium. It would have been nice to see more people. From the outside one could hardly tell a match was going on, let alone a World Cup match.
The music got better as the sky darkened, but the PA system wasn't very good. A mixture of Kannada, Tamil, Hindi, and English songs were played, and as a rule they were all hits, with throbbing beats and somewhat random lyrics. There was one extremely enthusiastic man a few rows in front of me who would dance even when no music was played, and kept up the energy until the very last ball. The drummers along the boundary did a great job building up the atmosphere.
There was some rather contrived entertainment during the break between the innings - an overly happy emcee supervised some catching, fielding, and batting contests, while the World Cup's neglected mascot, Stumpy the elephant, lumbered around the ground waving his bat and looking very cuddly.
ODIs v Twenty20
Each has its charm. An ODI is like a day-long picnic, and it requires more skill than a Twenty20. In my opinion, even weightlifters can play a Twenty20 - all they need to do is touch ball with bat and it will fly for a six. But yes, Twenty20s are more entertaining.
Marks out of 10
6, for the difficulty we had getting to the match, and for the certainty about the result. It was a fun experience, and I hope that I can go to more World Cup matches the next time around.
The first half of the Canada innings was splendid, but their mild collapse was disappointing, though not unexpected. Their fielding was just bad, what with the dropped catch, missed run-outs and lack of diving. The Australian bowling reined Canada in very well and very quickly, and their batting never looked like it was going to fail.
The food provided at the stadium was good - drinks, sandwiches, samosas, bhajjis (fried snacks), fruit salad, and chips were available - and the placards and inflatable clappers were a nice touch. The new plasma screen was well-positioned and gave us all the information we needed. The stadium also looked cleaner than before.
Every player was cheered, every wicket and boundary was greeted, and the stadium staff was polite and helpful. The Australians and Canadians seemed like they were having a great deal of fun and spoke to each other often. At the end of the match, John Davison was congratulated by nearly all the players on the field, and everyone was smiling.
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Sixteen-year-old Darshini is in grade 12, and her favourite subject is biology. She learns Bharatanatyam and likes to play throwball and badminton. She hopes to become a veterinarian, and wishes that cricket was not the only big sport in India. She's useless at cricket but is improving, playing with her classmates at school. Her favourite sportspeople are Rahul Dravid, Lin Dan, Vishwanathan Anand, VVS Laxman and Zhang Yining.
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