Roving reporter

Dancing the day away

Roving Reporter by Rahul Bhatia at Mumbai

Adam Gilchrist with Mangesh, the child he sponsors through World Vision, during the Mumbai Test © Getty Images
They're not the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders. This is Dino's Troupe's first gig here, and they love it. They like the crowd. The crowd loves them back. Both celebrate the moment with passion, especially when the moment includes a felled Australian. In quieter times they prance about, arms and legs flailing as they rouse the crowd into action. The response has been good.
The crowds have fed off their relentless energy, and from the beginning till the end of the day their belief that India will win has not faltered. It is a minor victory for these college students moonlighting as cheerleaders. India winning would be a bigger victory, but they're nearly a hundred runs behind, so that can wait.
These students who form Dino's Troupe can also dance. They know western and jive. They've danced at big shows before, and this one's no different, except it's on a larger scale. They were contacted by a company and asked if they'd like to spread cheer at a Test. Sure, they said, and were put up at a top hotel overlooking the sea. Besides cheering, they can't do much else on matchdays. They travel from the hotel to the stadium in the morning, and then right back into the clutches of five-star luxury in the evening.
It's not bad, one says. She's sitting by herself, wiping her eyes dry. It's mild asthma, caused by the dust and the heat and the shouting. She says the organisers keep the troupe busy with quizzes and other things. Why they can't leave the hotel, she doesn't know, but she likes it. She might not be with the troupe much longer because of her parents' wishes.
Meanwhile, the others have their minds on more immediate things. They run the length of the stand in train formation, and spectators in the first row keep their legs well under their seats as the express whizzes by. Then the train stops, and they turn to face the seats. "C'mon c'mon everybody say I-N-D-I-A," someone yells. It's Dino - short for Dinesh Chauhan. He and Swati began this operation a few years ago. Most of the dancers didn't know each other, but knew how to dance. They networked, got together, and practised regularly. Right now Dinesh is getting the crowd together with his arms raised. They catch on gradually. Then comes a religious chant. Followed by another one that's more generic, and a darn sight more classy than the "Aussies suck" that reverberated round the stadium yesterday. That didn't even rhyme.
Swati walks over and says hello. She's doing her masters in mathematics. Right now she's talking, but is clearly making an effort to do so because her throat is almost hoarse. How's she going to do this for the whole Test? Just then, another wicket falls. At this rate, it might not last more than one more day. She shrugs and says it's OK. She likes inciting the crowds and waving the pom-poms.
Swati can't stay for long because she has a paid job to do. She runs down the steps and rejoins her group, who are in the middle of another catchy chant. They jump around, waving whatever's in their hands, and whistle, and scream, and laugh, and get everyone involved. It's so natural, it's catchy. These aren't paid professionals. They're having fun and getting paid for it. It's cool. It's rather like being a sports writer.
Rahul Bhatia is on the staff of Wisden Cricinfo in India.