First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
The glamour boys of Mumbai were visiting. With a modern-day legend in their ranks, this game was quite an obvious choice. Other reasons were that I had never seen Yuvraj Singh play before and that it was my first opportunity to watch an IPL contest with my college friends. With one team firmly establishing their supremacy over others and the other team lying at the bottom of the pile, I predicted a Mumbai Indians win with Pune Warriors at least putting up a decent fight.
Although Pune is my adopted city, my loyalties stay with Sachin Tendulkar. Since 2008, I have keenly followed the fortunes of Mumbai Indians. This game was not going to be any different. Ricky Ponting's selfless decision to step down has done wonders to the team. With Mitchell Johnson and Dwayne Smith in the playing XI, the team seems to have finally found the right balance. Its batting looks assured and its bowling never looked this awesome. This might be the year when Mumbai finally win the IPL. Achtung Chennai!
You couldn't beat Johnson for his two wickets at two runs an over. But Yuvraj Singh seemed to be in his element today with both bat and ball. India have dropped him for the Champions Trophy but I don't see them winning the 2015 World Cup without him.
One thing I'd have changed about the match
If Yuvraj had batted longer he could have brought the contest to life.
Face-off I relished
Yuvraj v Malinga: This mini-battle between the free-spirited batsman and the bowler with the most unorthodox of bowling actions was short but fun. Malinga had just accounted for Robin Uthappa. Yuvraj walked in. It wasn't exactly a partisan crowd, but everybody applauded when he middled a block-hole-seeking missile that he received first up from Malinga to the midwicket boundary. Malinga tried to wrest the advantage back with an assortment of deliveries, but Yuvraj negotiated them comfortably.
The wow moment had to be the wicket of Smith off the first ball of the Mumbai innings. During the mid-innings break, we watched Ashok Dinda, under the supervision of Allan Donald, warm up on the practice pitch near our stand. He hit the solitary stump on few occasions, and my friends and I joked about how his impressive practice sessions hadn't previously translated into good match bowling. Well, he made us eat our words.
Smith was fielding near us when he took a stunning one-handed catch to dismiss Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Shot of the day
The second of the consecutive slog-swept sixes Yuvraj hit was my shot of the day. Given the form he is in, I didn't back him to hit another one in the same direction. But he did and stayed down on one knee as if admiring his shot.
The crowd was at its noisiest best, with the biggest cheers going to a certain Mr Tendulkar, as is the case anywhere else in India. A certain section of the crowd - if not everybody - was utterly disappointed with the Pune team for not putting up a good show and giving fans their money's worth. I agree with them. The knowledgeable crowd of Pune deserves better.
The fake fight between Yuvraj and Harbhajan Singh had the crowd in splits. Harbhajan, who had just walked in, went straight to Yuvraj at cover. They pretended like they were having an argument, but I bet they were just deciding what should they order for dinner. Harbhajan's dance, Yuvraj tripping him and faking blows added to the fun. I won't remember the match as much as I will this incident.
One year on, the parking issue hasn't been addressed. It's such a drag. Since the stadium lies well outside the city limits and with no nearby settlements, there is definitely scope to widen roads and to provide easy entry and exit points, but only if the planning committee pays heed.
Twenty20s v ODIs
I prefer ODIs. They offer you a chance to score a hundred or to take a five-for.
Banner of the day
I was on the lookout for few original lines. Then one showed up on the giant screen. A girl was holding up a poster saying, "Life begins at 40". No prizes for guessing who she was referring to.
TV v stadium
The stadium experience rules. Behind all the razzle-dazzle on television, advertisements, pre-and post-match interviews, there are 22 players fighting it out on the field. They are playing for their country or franchise, and are least concerned with what happens outside the field.
Marks out of 10
7, and I am being generous considering the lop-sided contest. I will remember this match for various reasons, but least of all for the cricket.
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