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First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
Contrary to popularity belief, the IPL is also cricket. And when any kind of cricket happens at the Wankhede, a cricket-loving Mumbaikar can't help but go. There is an intrinsic need to see live cricket and experience the stadium atmosphere. So I, along with my extended clan, set off to watch the Mumbai Indians take on the Deccan Chargers.
As our jerseys, armbands, caps, banners, bandanas and flags suggested, we were out there to support the home team. In fact, I don't think anyone at the Wankhede was wearing deep blue for any other team but Mumbai. But while I was supporting Harbhajan's men as well, there were two other reasons why I picked this match: to watch the Deccan captain Kumar Sangakkara (who didn't play finally) and to see Dale Steyn bowl live.
Mumbai's bowlers bundled out the opposition for 100 in 18.4 overs. Lasith Malinga bowled a lethal spell for four wickets, and Harbhajan also took two. But the Man-of-the-Match award went to Steyn. Just watching him bowl at that speed gives you an adrenaline rush. With figures of 4-0-10-2 in a chase of 101 against a prolific team, Steyn made sure that nobody who saw it would forget his performance, even if he ended up on the losing side.
One thing I'd have changed
Some people at the Wankhede have all the maturity of a child Sreesanth and Shahid Afridi would produce. I say this from my past experiences at the ground, and I maintain that when it comes to sensibility, there is something seriously lacking. There were the usual scuffles and arguments: "Please sit, I can't see/ You are blocking my view of the camera. So? Does your pop own the stadium?" But there were some loud and unnecessary fights as well, which ruined the atmosphere, especially once the music was turned off due to a 10pm deadline. And in stadiums where people do not know the difference between "noise and "din", those trumpets and whistles should be banned.
Face-off I relished
Malinga v batsmen and Steyn v batsmen. With the two most lethal T20 bowlers out in the middle, there were always going to be fireworks. Watching Sachin Tendulkar square up to Steyn, Cameron White get beaten by Slinga's pace, and Richard Levi lose his stump off the first ball were all exciting.
The Wankhede crowd meter is always high to the point of busting, and today was no different. The buzz around the stadium can be addictive, and every time I step in I feel the Wankhede is a living entity. The incessant chanting for their god, Tendulkar, is something you have to see to believe. And the hoarse cries of "Malingaaaa, Malingaaaa" for each of the 22 deliveries he bowled, are enough to pep up all the other bowlers (I suspect Mali isn't loved and cheered for so much even in Sri Lanka). And the shout-outs for captain "Bhajjiiii" were so enthusiastic, there is no way he could have continued his dry spell. The Mexican waves weren't as eager but good to watch. But the silence when Steyn was doing his thing was bit of a letdown. As the only Mumbai fan cheering Levi's wicket, I'd say, let's appreciate good cricket and forget sides for a moment.
For some strange reason, dancing to Bollywood songs on a far-off stage was considered entertainment. But the choice of songs wasn't bad - English chart-busters, Hindi item numbers and popular Marathi songs - a medley aimed at catering to the entire crowd. Nobody will complain though if they played that trademark trumpet-horn fewer number of times.
I was asked who a Mumbai Indian is and the best way I can put it is: the hordes of people of all ages, classes and communities who descend at the Wankhede dressed in blue and covered in merchandise every season, making lots of noise. And I say this with affection. I have seen elderly ladies in traditional finery jumping and screaming players' names, kids naming international and domestic players after spotting them from a distance, decked-up-for-the-runway girls armed with their mobile-camera clicking everything in sight, and entire families coming out together and letting their hair down. I find this very appealing because it shows me the reach cricket has and the way it can bring people together. Underneath all this chaos lies a love for cricket.
Marks out of ten
8. A point cut for the rowdy spectators and another for the slow, and almost boring, batting. But the eight points for the insane atmosphere, the shrieking crowds, and the adrenaline rush I got from watching a match at the Wankhede.
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