Now that the Pune Warriors have their own stadium in Pune, my friend and I decided to drive down from Goa. As you approach the Sahara Subrata Roy Stadium, built next to the Pune-Mumbai expressway, you are greeted by extremely narrow lanes and undulated terrain. The slow bumper-to-bumper traffic is in contrast to the breezy expressway just a few metres away. But the stadium is picturesque. We were fortunate to be seated in the Southern Club Stand, perhaps the best seat in the house, with the Sahara hospitality. However, the experience was marred by an ill-informed cricket crowd.
After supporting the Chennai Super Kings in the previous seasons, I shifted my loyalties to the Warriors since Sourav Ganguly was leading the costliest team in the IPL. What made the shift easier was MS Dhoni's audacity to label Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag "slow", on the Australian tour. Also, Pune is closer to Goa (my home) than Priyanka Chopra is to Shah Rukh Khan!
Steve Smith was outstanding on the field. His catching was brilliant and his pyrotechnics made Jesse Ryder look like Jonathan Trott in a Test match.
I would have liked to have watched the match with Kiran More, the former India player and selector, to remind him that Ganguly's retirement was unnecessarily hastened by some people.
Ganguly's cover drive. It was vintage Dada on display.
Apart from Ganguly's shot, du Plessis' scorching straight drive was one that could have put a lawn mower to shame, and Ryder's pull off Dwayne Bravo made it clear tequila was not his favourite shot.
In the expensive Southern Club Stand, cricket seemed to be on the last thing on the spectators' minds. They looked more interested in the parathas in the dinner boxes, than in Robin Utthappa on the field. And the young couples were more interested in public displays of affection than watching the action on the field.
The DJs and the cheerleaders disappeared in the second half of the match. But the DJs were so awful in the first half that no one missed them in the second.
A fine cameo by du Plessis, excellent overall cricket by Steve Smith, and a heady knock by Ryder made the experience of watching cricket in an excellent stadium extremely enjoyable. It was heartening to see Ganguly, the captain who instilled aggression in India, and Dhoni, the captain who reaped benefits from it, chat with each other after the post-match presentation ceremony. Dada marshalled his limited resources well.
8. Two deducted for R Ashwin's unnecessary attempt to Mankad Smith.
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