First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
For me, more often than not, watching a match live is dictated by ticket availability rather than a keen interest to watch an exciting contest. That said, every match scheduled in my 100km vicinity is an invitation to visit the stadium. I decided to kickstart my IPL-watching season with a relative low-key affair between Delhi Daredevils and Deccan Chargers. An afternoon match on a weekday eased any ticketing issues that could have cropped up.
It was a match between a team that had lost just one game and another that had not won a single one. There wasn't much to predict - Daredevils were the favorites.
My team loyalty in the IPL is a highly complicated and confusing mess of conflicting allegiances. I have stayed in Gurgaon (which qualifies as Delhi, for outsiders) for five years so one part automatically supports Daredevils. I studied in Mumbai for four years, and those excellent four years present a case to support Mumbai Indians. My hometown is Jamshedpur, and two lads from there - Varun Aaron and Saurabh Tiwary - attract me to their respective teams. But, being from Jharkhand, the biggest influence is Indian captain MS Dhoni, who is the reason I have supported Chennai Super Kings in the past few IPL seasons.
Realistically, I think Rajasthan Royals and Daredevils have excellent batting line-ups that have been firing this season. I would like Rahul Dravid to lift the trophy this year as one for the good old times.
Just two letters - KP. He walked in with Daredevils in a spot of bother, having lost three wickets under 30 runs. His style of play hardly reflected the situation as he displayed supreme confidence in walking out to the fast bowlers and treating the spinners with disdain.
Once the dust settled on the carnage, KP had raced away to a century, having scored more than 60% of the runs in the chase. Bruce Willis and other muscle men of his ilk would have been proud of this one-man demolition job.
One thing you'd have changed about the day
This game had the makings of a close finish before KP stepped up. I wish Chargers had a few more runs on the board, which would have meant an exciting last-over dash.
Face-off I relished
I was really excited about watching Dale Steyn in action, and looked forward to his face-off with Pietersen. I wasn't disappointed; KP faced quite a few Steyn deliveries, and did not treat them with the disdain he reserved for other bowlers. He quietly played out Steyn's quota while launching into the others.
Parthiv Patel was looking good in the middle and needed to stay there to boost the total. He hit a shot that seemed like it would easily clear the fence, only for Mahela Jayawardene take a well-judged catch right at the boundary's edge. Made it all look so easy!
Shot of the day
On a day when India was testing nuclear missiles in one part of the country, KP was testing his own versions, making the crowd scatter quite a few times with his scorchers. One that stood out was in the 14th over, against Amit Mishra. He launched it straight and high, and it hit the highest part of the third tier of the stadium, still in ascent! Any longer and it would have qualified as an IRBM (Intermediate-range ballistic missile).
Considering it was a weekday and an afternoon start, the stadium was a respectable 70% full. There was no doubt to which team they were all supporting, with Daredevils flags, jerseys, face paints visible throughout the stands. The biggest cheer was reserved for the home boy and captain Virender Sehwag, with chants of "Viru, Viru" ringing across the stadium.
Those chants soon modified to "KP, KP" as the man went berserk in one JP Duminy over, hitting three sixes in a row. From there, the crowd egged him on to reach his century and exploded when he did with a six, the final hit of the game.
One thing I cannot quite comprehend is people using their mobile phones to take videos of the match; I mean do they expect to sell the rights to TV channels? I am pretty sure the 18-19 cameras present on ground do a marginally better job.
The traffic and parking were a nightmare. Once we got out, we were stuck at the same place for a good 30 minutes before being able to move an inch. All of it was understandable though.
I know I cannot expect Grateful Dead to be played over the PA, but the same old mix of Bollywood and "party" numbers is a bit irksome. Someone should seriously work on the playlists before the match.
Twenty20 v ODI
Twenty20s have made ODIs seem a bit boring. ODIs are now stuck in purgatory between Tests and T20s. For the sake of entertainment, I prefer T20s to ODIs.
Nargis Fakhri, of Rockstar fame (or infamy, depending on the way you look at it) could be seen smiling on the big screen, so we presume she must have been somewhere in the stadium. Thankfully, there was no Akshay Kumar, a constant feature in Daredevils' matches during the past seasons.
TV v stadium
Considering I have an unfulfilled dream of watching a match in every cricket stadium, I prefer a visit to the stadium to sitting on the couch, any day.
The weather was pleasant in the evening. The harsh summers have not crept in yet. The match was interesting to a certain extent and the KP innings was one of the best you will see. An enjoyable experience overall.
Marks on 10
9. One point deducted for Sehwag not firing in front of his eager home crowd.
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