Fan Following

First-person reports from the stands

Delhi Daredevils v Mumbai Indians, IPL, Delhi

City rivalry at its peak

It's Delhi v Mumbai. The battle lines are clearly drawn

Arnav Sawhny

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Shahbaz Nadeem removed Ambati Rayudu and Kieron Pollard off successive deliveries, Delhi Daredevils v Mumbai Indians, IPL, Delhi, April 27, 2012
Shahbaz Nadeem: the gamechanger © AFP
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Choice of game
This was a battle of the heavyweights - the swashbuckling Sehwag v Sachin, or the mercurial KP v Slinga Malinga. With Delhi thrashing the pre-tournament favourites in Mumbai, it promised to be an epic encounter - could the Daredevils continue their dream season or would the might of the Mumbai Indians shine through? That no team had as yet pulled a double over the other was a delicious subplot to this battle.

Team supported
As a resident of Delhi, I naturally went into this game rooting for the Daredevils. One to always support the underdog, I was looking forward to the dramatically improved Delhi side taking on the rich and mighty Mumbai Indians. I went with a group of seven other friends, and we were spectacularly biased as seven Daredevils supports to one for Mumbai. Needless to say, he was in for a tough day, whatever the result.

Key performer
Despite a strong, solid and speedy start by Mahela Jayawardene and Virender Sehwag, I have two other picks for players of the day.

Kevin Pietersen - who else? - walked in in the 14th over, took his time to get going, saw wickets fall around him , but stayed calm and composed - well, as calm as you can be while smashing 50 off 25-odd balls. His finish gave the Daredevils' a 200-plus total.

My second performer of the day is the highly underrated left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem. After Mumbai lost their top three early, many thought the game was over. But Mumbai fought back with a spunky partnership between Dinesh Karthik and Ambati Rayudu and some quick hits by Kieron Pollard. Nadeem dismissed Rayudu and Pollard off consecutive deliveries to put the result beyond doubt.

One thing I'd have changed
Despite being a Daredevils supporter, I'd have loved to see Tendulkar get some more runs. While a target of 208 was always going to be beyond Mumbai - especially after they inexplicably dropped an in-form James Franklin for Aiden Blizzard - a longer knock from Sachin would have added some stability to the chase, potentially making the match a lot closer than it eventually turned out to be. It's always a pleasure to see him bat, and his solitary six over covers sent a shiver of delight through the crowd.

Face-off I most relished
I loved the way Jayawardene took on Lasith Malinga. He showed a sense of responsibility by never letting the yorker specialist settle into his rhythm and dented his confidence by taking him for plenty of runs. With their kingpin going for runs all over the park, the toothless Mumbai attack appeared helpless to contain Jayawardene on a flat pitch.

Accessories
Like a typical fan, I had noise whistles and a Delhi flag to wave for every four, six, save, Mumbai misfield, dropped catch, in between overs and after the match.

Close encounter
One of the girls I went with was in love with Morne Morkel and went into a frenzy of delight when he came to patrol the boundary next to where we were sitting. Chants of "Morkel Morkel" and "Marry me Morne" made him blush and smile, and his emphatic wave when going on to bowl sent her into a state of ecstasy.

Crowd meter
The Kotla was packed and noisy. Armed with flags and whistles, and encouraged by loud Punjabi music and a very enthusiastic emcee, the crowd created an atmosphere so in favour of the home side, it seemed impossible they would lose. Like in any stadium in India, Sachin got his share of cheers, but the Delhi crowd, after four seasons of the IPL, seems to have finally realised it won't do to cheer a four from the opposition side. But spectators in Delhi are not yet as hostile as the crowds in Mumbai and Bangalore, and still welcome their visitors with open arms.

There was a silent battle between a seven-year-old Delhi fan and a 20-something Mumbai fan. The Delhi boy was wearing the Daredevils jersey and waving a team flag, cheering them on enthusiastically. Then he caught sight of the Mumbai fan and for the rest of the game, after every boundary or over, the Delhi kid would stand up in his seat, turn around, and dance, cheer and make faces at the Mumbai fan, who also responded enthusiastically. The rivalry ended well, with the Mumbai fan giving the Delhi boy a tight hug after the match.

Fancy-dress index
One guy wore an array of peacock feathers on his head, with matching sunglasses that had green shiny flashing lights. If he had ventured in front of the sightscreen, there would have been a major interruption in the game.

Actual interruption of the day
In the middle of an over during the Daredevils' innings a dog ran on to the field. It took a lap of honour around the field while the crowd and walked off to allow play to continue.

Banner of the day
"Sachin, please stick to cricket not politics!" A simple message that showed how highly we Indians think of our cricketers and how little we think of our politicians.

TV v stadium
I'm a sucker for games at the stadium, be it Tests, ODIs or Twenty20s. The IPL, packaged as it is, is simply a must-watch in the stadium. The entertainment - both cricket and off the field - the crowds, the music, the drama, the thrills and the heartbreaks, the euphoria can be best enjoyed with 40,000 other fans screaming their hearts out.

Overall
I'd give this game 8 out of 10 simply in relation to the other IPL games I've watched at the Kotla. While this game didn't have the drama of the Delhi v Punjab game I saw last season (both teams scoring over 200 runs), the fabulous crowd and the all-round display from the Daredevils made it a wonderful experience.

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Arnav Sawhny is a sports enthusiast, with cricket, football and F1 being his top picks. He supports the Kings XI Punjab in the IPL because of their ability to punch above their weight, but he is equally partial to his adopted home Delhi and to the Pune Warriors which have his favourite captain Sourav Ganguly. He enjoys writing on various topics and has published articles in leading dailies and travel magazines.

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