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First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
I had watched the second and third Tests of the series at the grounds, and had no plans to watch any of the ODIs, but a couple of scheduled meetings were cancelled, and I thought I could make good use of the time. So I came down to Ahmedabad from Mumbai to catch the game I expected would clinch the series for India.
Though Ravi Rampaul bowled a superb spell and Rohit Sharma showed glimpses of the greatness many expect him to achieve, Darren Sammy was my Man of the Match. Not easy to be in his shoes, since he carries the burden of possibly being the most criticised international cricketer around. When West Indies were batting, he took Abhimanyu Mithun to the cleaners in the 49th over, changing the complexion of the game completely. During the Indian chase, he ran Rohit out superbly to make up for a couple of dropped catches. The man never stops trying. Also, he kept his cool till the end and managed to get India all out, and did not panic when Rohit and Ashwin came close to the target. Good to see Sammy smiling for the right reasons at least once in the series.
One thing I'd have changed
I'd have liked Rohit to get his century and take India home as he promised in an interview a few days back.
Face-off I relished
Rohit v the West Indies. Sammy was sporting enough to congratulate him after his dismissal.
When Kieron Pollard hit a Vinay Kumar delivery high, we all looked to see whether the ball would go over the rope. Then, suddenly, from nowhere came Ravindra Jadeja, hot on its trail, before lunging at the ball and taking a ripper, stunning the whole crowd into disbelief. This was followed by loud celebrations from the crowd, and all his team-mates ran towards Jadeja to congratulate him. The next moment, everyone turned towards the giant screen to see the replay, after which the crowd stood up in unison to applaud.
Virat Kohli gets cheered everywhere he goes, and often looks a little hassled by it, but this time he waved graciously at the spectators when they chanted his name. But the one who pleased the crowd the most was Kieron Pollard - whenever the crowd cheered for him, he turned back and did a namaste, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
Shot of the day
Before the last ball of the 43rd over, it seemed like Rohit was asking Mithun to judiciously block the delivery. Mithun had other ideas, and hit it for a huge six. The crowd, who had been happy to watch him block the ball till then, went delirious and produced another standing ovation, with people calling him the "Mithun Chakraborty of cricket".
The stadium was almost jam-packed. There was a constant buzz all the time, though it dimmed considerably after Jadeja's dismissal, with India at 105 for 6. There were brisk sales of Indian flags outside, and I haven't so many flags at a stadium, even at Eden or Wankhede.
In this Indian team, it is usually Virat Kohli who gets the most cheers, but local boy Parthiv Patel was the apple of everyone's eye today. An elderly gentleman walked in a little late, sat in my row and asked the people around: "Sachin chhe? Parthiv chhe"? (Is Sachin here? Parthiv?) He asked later if Aaron and Yadav were the same or two different players.
An elderly man and his grandson sitting in front of me watched the game with whole-hearted enthusiasm. Towards the end of the West Indies innings, the grandpa tried to explain to the boy that they should support Windies now so that they would score some runs and the game would become interesting. So when Andre Russell and Sammy hit boundaries, the grandpa beamed, while the grandson (not keen on the plan) sulked.
A lady with a singsong voice announced at the beginning that India had won the toss and decided to field. During the break she announced with great seriousness that no one should make racist comments that can hurt other people's feelings.
During the break, all what we saw was one of the Indians (seemed to be Rahane) get some fielding practice. The spectators watched with great interest and applauded every time he took a good catch.
Nothing absolutely. I have enough stadium experience to know that the more things you take to a stadium in India, the more trouble you will have. As usual, the food was very badly managed, with the one stall for four gates overcrowded all the time; after an hour all it was selling was popcorn, which means most people spent much of their time without any decent food.
Marks out of 10
An 8, easily. Would have been a 9, had the match gone to the last over, and maybe a 9.5 had India won with a Rohit century. It was a cracker of a match, with the Indian chase keeping our hopes alive. The last-wicket partnership between Umesh Yadav and Mithun kept us hanging on, and every run scored was celebrated with festival-like fervour.
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A graduate in English Literature with a post-graduate diploma in film-making, Saurav Dey's plans for a career in offspin bowling were quickly aborted when he saw Rajesh Chauhan, and later Harbhajan Singh, rising up the ranks. Now, in between his professional assignments, Saurav tries his best to go back to his boyhood by watching as many matches in stadiums as he can. He eventually hopes to cover all the Test and ODI venues in the world and write a book about them some day.
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