First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
This game was on top of my must-watch list right from the time the IPL schedule was released. Firstly, it was an early-season game, so both teams were sure to still be in contention. Additionally, Kolkata were the defending champions, and the prospect of my team - Kings XI Punjab - beating them early in the season was too good to resist.
Kings XI Punjab all the way. Nothing is better than seeing your home team win, that too against top opposition. Punjab came into the game on the back of two successive losses, and another one could have derailed their campaign. This made their victory even more special.
After having a good opening IPL season which subsequently led to an India cap, Manpreet Gony lost form and was eventually lost in the crowd. He didn't get too many chances for his new franchise, Punjab, in the lead-up to this game. When it came, it was upto him to seize the opportunity and he did it in style. He resurrected another faltering batting display from Punjab to set up a very competitive total. Punjab's indifferent batting had silenced the crowd, but he changed that with some decisive hitting. Later, he came back to bowl an outstanding spell which turned the game Punjab's way. It was fitting that the crowd chanted his name as he bowled the final two overs of his spell.
One thing I'd have changed about the match
The game had everything I could have asked for. The weather was excellent, and the match was close. The one thing that wasn't up to the mark was the crowd - there were a lot of empty seats across all the stands. Even the people who had turned up were quite subdued - there wasn't a single attempt to get a Mexican wave going.
A large Kings XI flag, a zoozoo hat, and a couple of '6' and '4' charts was all we carried. We also had a vuvuzela and a blow horn, but they were confiscated by the police at the entrance.
Sunil Narine's hat-trick was easily the big moment of the day. Everybody was on their feet as the hat-trick ball was bowled and it turned out to be an absolute ripper. The crowd later clapped for his achievement even though he was from the away team, which was a nice gesture.
Yusuf Pathan and Manpreet Gony were fielding close to our stand. There were shouts from some kids as Yusuf came near us, but he denied them the joy of an acknowledgement.
Most memorable shot
There weren't many sixes in the game but the few that were hit were huge. The last six hit by Kolkata's Rajat Bhatia was special because it landed just two rows ahead of where we were sitting.
I have been a regular visitor to the PCA Stadium for the last couple of years, and this was the most sparse crowd I've seen here. There weren't long lines for entry to the stadium and the passage was hassle-free, and the atmosphere inside wasn't up to the mark. Given the team's poor run, perhaps IPL fever hasn't yet caught on in the city. The fact that it was a day game on a week day didn't help matters. As things transpired, though, this was probably the best game I've been to. The atmosphere leading up to the final ball was unreal.
The one thing I like about the IPL over international cricket is the amount of 'side entertainment' you get. The last time I was here, for an India v England match, there weren't any announcers or music. This time though, the announcer kept the crowd busy with his innovative and catchy lines. The music was also exceptionally good and included some foot-tapping Punjabi bhangra numbers which enhanced the overall experience.
Twenty20 v ODI
Yesterday, I would have probably said ODI, because it's a more complete form of the game which adequately puts the abilities of players to test. But after this game I have changed my opinion. Though I have been to quite a few ODIs, I haven't ever seen a game going this close. T20 is quick, fast, competitive and has great entertainment value. Having said that though, the longer version of the game is far from dead.
There were a couple of celebrities watching the game, namely Bollywood stars Preity Zinta, who co-owns Kings XI Punjab, and Juhi Chawla, who has a stake in the KKR team. During the mid-innings break, Preity took a round of the stadium waving to the home crowd which got everyone excited.
On the whole, the game was quite superb. It had all the twists and turns you expect from a T20 game, including the drama of a hat-trick. At one stage it seemed like Punjab weren't going anywhere, but Gony powered them to a fighting score. Again, Gautam Gambhir and Eoin Morgan seemed to shut out Punjab, but Kolkata's regular loss of wickets towards the end meant that the Kings picked up an unlikely win.
Marks out of 10
I will go with a 9.5 rating for this one. The match experience was perfect, but the fact that the stands weren't full makes me deduct half a mark.
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