So far, I had been lucky to be able to travel in largely empty, comfortable trains to and from the stadium. All that changed today, with the infrequent afternoon local train being crammed with an ocean of humanity in a narrow pipeline bursting at the seams. There were cricket fans, of course, flocking in large numbers to attend the “big game” but there were also non-cricket-fans, notably a group of young girls, extremely annoyed with the unexpected hardships in travel they were subjected to. Initially, I was quite thrilled by the rush, for, what is the experience of train travel in an Indian metro if not one defined by one such? Later, however, it got a bit irksome, as I discovered I was being acted upon by several external unbalanced forces, made to undergo random Brownian motion over which I could exert no control. In all the chaos, I was most concerned about guarding my Ray-Ban glasses and more importantly, my match ticket. Luckily, I managed both. Such chaos continued out of the train onto the platform and all the way till I entered the stands, where, luckily things were more orderly.
As earlier, the Chennai Super Kings were going through their warm-ups close to our stand. Stephen Fleming was so close he could have virtually heard any whisper in the crowds. Fleming’s is an awesome presence – watching him on TV all these years, did not give me the true picture of how tall he actually is. Of course, Ishant seems actually taller and he too made his way towards us during their practice. Besides, Ravi Shastri also passed by a couple of times, he went past the stands somewhere and I could have literally shaken hands with him through the fence if I wanted to. And then there was the large Zimbabwean Pommie Mbangwa, who, quite astonishingly looks even more deadly up close than on TV with his flashy hair locks.
As was speculated, Shah Rukh Khan did not make an appearance at the game. Perhaps, he knew his superstar status would have competition here in the South, unlike in the rest of the country. Perhaps he feared that the Chennai team was going to be too strong for his Knight Riders anyway and he stayed away. Perhaps he was simply busy with something else. Anyway, he did send over a couple of his giant 10-feet tall knights (the mascots) over.
Like he did to Steve Waugh in that famous 2001 tour, Ganguly chose to keep Dhoni waiting at the toss too. I must say, it is a most annoying and unsportsmanlike gesture. Back then, I had joined the rest of the Indian fans and applauded it as a masterstroke. But sitting in the stands I appreciate that it leaves a bad taste in the mouth if both captains do not walk out for the toss together.
As the game began, McCullum’s massive six hit the roof of our stand just a few meters away from where I was sitting, it was a phenomenal stroke but soon after that he got out and then Ponting followed; and that was the beginning of what was to be an extremely one-sided game.
I have now been at the Chepauk for day games and night games but today was the first time I was there in day-night game, so to say; and I had the pleasure to see the lights turning on. They follow a very systematic pattern - it is the two central columns which light up first, starting with the top row and going down to the bottom. Then the adjacent columns light up and so it spreads outwards. Llike almost any other landscape in the World, a cricket stadium looks its prettiest at twilight; when illuminated partly by nature and partly by man. It was in this light that Parthiv Patel hooked a short ball from Ajit Agarkar up in the air right into the hands of Ishant Sharma in the deep, one whose trajectory I am happy to say I followed from start to end.
Lastly, I was honored to have the opportunity to shake legs to the beats of the living legend Sivamani. This guy is absolutely amazing. I already mentioned the fact that he moves around the stadium with his drums so that all sections of the crowd can enjoy him. But what I noticed yesterday was that he also plays while he is on the move and his assistant is carrying the drums for him. Besides a great percussionist the guy is also a magnificent showman as I discovered and has the ability to carry the crowds with him. When he parked himself at our stand and beat the drums for our dancing pleasure, I focused on the way his hands moved the sticks.
It was as graceful and subtle as a very skilled batsman with a bat in his hand.
Unfortunately the cricket today was all about brute force and lacked that grace and beauty.