I knew I would be home in Bangalore for Diwali, and as soon as the Royal Challengers qualified for the league phase, I booked tickets for this match. To be honest, I did not know then who the opponents would be or that the match could be a dead rubber for Bangalore.
True Bangalorean that I am, I supported the Royal Challengers all the way, even if it meant the last IPL team would get knocked out. But it was hard not to want Virender Sehwag to score a few, or feel sorry for Amit Mishra later on. With Bangalore out, I'll be cheering for Trinidad & Tobago and maybe Brett Lee and Co. in New South Wales for the rest of the tournament.
While Ross Taylor undoubtedly was the man who reduced the match to a no-contest, my key performer would be the man who let him off at a crucial stage, Ashish Nehra. It was comical to watch Nehra at his awkward best, first parrying the ball over the fence for six, and then conceding an extra run in the same over.
The match was great fun but if Bangalore had still been alive and fighting for a semi-final berth, that would have added a level of tension to the proceedings. We could also have done without the bomb scare before the match. There was a constant reminder of that threat in the form of a security guy patrolling the boundary bearing a fancy gadget with an antenna.
Taylor v Glenn McGrath was a potentially interesting contest but Taylor settled it pretty early with lofted fours in McGrath's first over. Watching Dirk Nannes bowl short and fast against the Bangalore top order was a treat. He hit 150kph quite consistently.
Roelef van der Merwe's fielding off his own bowling was eye-catching. He was bowling without a midwicket inside the circle, and thrice in the same over, he chased down the ball, put in the sliding dive, and prevented the second run. The moment of the match, though, was the crowd cheering for Taylor when he walked in to bat - it was as if Sachin Tendulkar himself had walked in.
Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, the debutant, fielding at the boundary near us put in a neat performance in front of a big crowd, and he held his nerve while bowling against Sehwag as well. Virat Kohli's show on the field ranged from a special dive, pick-up-and-direct-hit at backward point, to an ordinary misfield for four against Kumble at deep midwicket.
Taylor's big hits into the second tier made for brilliant watching and Kohli looked very skilful against Mishra with a square-driven four and a couple of late cuts. But my shot of the day would have to be Rahul Dravid's six to finish the match off on a perfect note.
Since the unforgettable 1996 World Cup game against Pakistan, few crowds in India could have provided a better atmosphere for a cricket match. Only a couple of empty sections were visible in the stadium. The DJ played his part, getting the crowd to start chants of "Jumbo, Jumbo", "Hodiyappa, Uthappa" chants, and Mexican waves from time to time.
One guy seated just behind us sported long, wild hair, wore a hideous mask, and cheered shrilly even when nothing was happening on the field. We were quite happy when he moved away towards the fence to dance with his mates.
Most of the music was of the sort I don't carry on my iPod - loud and noisy - but it got the crowd going all right. I quite liked the Champions League theme music that was aired from time to time. The music got better when Bangalore batted, with repeated airings of "Tonight's Gonna Be A Good Night", but cosmopolitan as Bangalore may be, the Kannada film numbers were the ones that really got the entire stadium grooving - "Jinke Mari Naa", and "Odi Maga, Odi Maga, Bida Beda Avna". The cheerleaders closest to my seat were three Mischief Gals, who were quite a treat to watch. The crowd and the girls fed off each other, and at one stage as Taylor blazed away, they were performing backward flips and other gymnastics tricks.
The Champions League tickets were more affordable than those at the IPL 2008, but the stadium décor was definitely poorer. This match was effectively an IPL match and the crowd knew each player: from van der Merwe to Nannes. Most of us got to see some of the Cobras v Bushrangers match as well. While the names there were not as well known, or the match as engaging, that didn't stop the crowd from calling out the names of the boundary riders, or generally being at their raucous best.
The only non-player to make it to the big screen was Jacques Kallis' girlfriend. That apart, the crowd in my stand went into a tizzy towards the end of the first match, when the Challengers and Daredevils made their entry into the stadium through an adjacent entrance. The RCB players also took a victory lap at the end of the match, and the likes of Dale Steyn, van der Merwe, and Taylor tossed their red caps into the crowd, sparking mini fights amongst the fans.
9. Some of the fielding and catching was ordinary, and I suppose we could have had a closer contest, but Kumble and Dravid fired, Taylor exploded, and overall the crowd got more than their money's worth on a super Diwali night at the Chinnaswamy.