Choice of game
I chose this game mainly to watch Rahul Dravid bat, though the prospect of watching Dale Steyn bowl against the marauding Shane Watson was tempting too. I predicted a Rajasthan Royals victory, because I thought they had the batsmen capable of thwarting the threat posed by a strong Sunrisers Hyderabad bowling attack.
I want Dravid to lift the trophy for Royals, but I also want my home team Sunrisers to go all the way. As for this match, I was supporting Sunrisers since Royals were already through to the playoffs while Sunrisers were still competing with Royal Challengers for the last playoff spot.
To everybody's surprise the key performer turned out to be one of the lesser-known players, Biplab Samantray. In a game where one bowler managed a five-wicket haul, another one completed his quota of four overs at an economy rate of two and no other batsman scored more than 26 runs, the key performer has to be the man who made 55 at a strike rate of around 120.
One thing I'd have changed about the match
If the organisers had allowed mobile phones inside the stadium I could have taken some pictures of the match.
Face-off I relished
I loved the way Dravid and Ajinkya Rahane kept Steyn at bay at the start of Royals' innings, loved it when I saw Dravid applaud Rahane for leaving a Steyn delivery safely outside the off stump, and enjoyed watching Karan Sharma out-fox Rahane and James Faulkner after getting hit for sixes.
I was not carrying anything with me but was happily surprised when the organisers handed over a Sunrisers T-Shirt and a flag for free. But the most interesting accessories were the pacifiers a group of guys had put in their mouths to imitate Darren Sammy's antics.
Royals were cruising when Cameron White ran out Dravid. The dismissal changed the complexion of the match.
Brad Hogg didn't get a game today but his pre-match practice drill was as intense as any other player's performance. He's 42, but kept on jogging around the ground for about 45 minutes continuously at a very good pace. Some of team-mates tried to go along with him, but none of them were able to keep pace for a considerable length of time.
We had Siddharth Trivedi and Sachin Baby fielding near us during the early part of Sunrisers' innings. Later it was Ajinkya Rahane who generously responded to us by waving back whenever we chanted his name. During the Royals innings, Steyn fielded near us but was unresponsive except for one instance where he appealed to us to raise our volume. During the closing stages of the game Sammy waved and chanted "Sunrisers" along with us.
Shot of the day
Rahane's slog sweep off Karan Sharma looked like it would clear the in-field but ended up well past the midwicket boundary.
The crowd took some time building up but by the time match was underway, the stadium was packed with just a handful of empty seats here and there. There was huge support for the home team but no hostility towards the visiting team. Dravid, Rahane and Watson were cheered as much as Steyn, Sammy and Shikhar Dhawan. A six was cheered irrespective of the team it was coming from. Naughty chants of "Sachin Sachin" followed Sachin Baby, constantly reminding him of his more celebrated namesake. There were multiple failed attempts at a Mexican wave before it came out beautifully towards the end of match.
The general problems associated with Indian stadiums like parking and unclean toilets were present at Uppal as well, but I was relieved to see that things have improved a lot since I last attended an IPL game here in 2008. The security checks were smooth and hassle-free and eatables were served hot even towards the end of the match. There were some very informative instructions on display, educating fans to refrain from "ambush marketing" and "spectator racism".
T20s v ODIs
I can't really compare the two formats. If it's a matter of a day's entertainment I would prefer Twenty20 over ODIs. But if it's a matter of living, absorbing and appreciating cricket for a day, I would prefer ODIs and Tests. I have watched four IPL games and enjoyed each thoroughly, but when I close my eyes and think of a stadium, the first image that comes to my mind is that of the India-Australia ODI match in 2009 when Sachin Tendulkar scored 175 in a losing cause. That day I didn't just enjoy cricket, I lived it.
TV v stadium
I prefer watching in a stadium, because you can see what you want to see and not what the broadcaster chooses to show you. The atmosphere of a stadium is impossible to experience when watching a match on TV.
Marks by ten