We were in Delhi for official work. We had a tedious workload for finalising the March end accounts of one of our clients. Then the client told us that there is an IPL cricket match on 11th April between Kings XI Punjab and Delhi Daredevils at 4 p.m. at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium, which was situated in close proximity where we were working, and whether we were interested to watch the same. This was a good opportunity to have some relief and refresh our minds, so without wasting a moment, we agreed and tickets were booked. Though I am not such a huge fan of cricket or IPL, I thought this is a good opportunity to see something so hyped about.
On the match day, we were there lined up for security check. It was 3 p.m. and there was a big crowd building up outside the stadium, with cops overseeing the orderliness of the audience. All kinds of merchandise like Team T-Shirts, whistles, caps, face paint and stuff were for sale. As we walked by the stadium to Gate 18, we could see crazy fans lining up at the entrance. Security was huge and I mean really ‘huge’. Had to be…Police, Army, Private security, you name it. Gate 18, our entrance into the stadium had 100 odd fans waiting to get in. Before entering the stadium, we could see Yuvraj Singh having a net practice with the other Punjab guys. When we entered the stadium, we were greeted by a spectacular lush green outfield with DLF IPL and Delhi Daredevils (local guys) posters and logos everywhere. Players from both teams were practicing and stretching all over the ground. The sound system was great and the DJ played some thumping music. The best part was that we were in shade and the scorching sun had already crossed our part of the stand. The cheerleaders’ stand was to our far left below. With about half an hour for the match to start, people started streaming in and soon the whole stadium was packed. We caught hold of some seats which was at the ground level, so we could catch a glimpse of players near the outfield fence. Sure enough, there was Brett Lee who was sprinting along the boundary (he was not playing btw due to a broken finger). He was spectator friendly and said Namaste with folded hands. We could see in Brett Lee’s eyes and face that he enjoyed the stardom in India. And why not! Then there was Piyush Chawla, Daniel Vettori, Maharoof, Sodhi, Jayawardene and Ashish Nehra too stretching and taking high catch practice. Soon the noise started building up with whistles, horns, inflatable balloons, DJ music and we knew that we are in for a good time. It was a carnival of sorts. We could see Preity Zinta sitting and chatting with players of Punjab.
The following was the team:
Gautam Gambhir (capt), Virender Sehwag, David Warner, Dinesh Karthik, Paul Collingwood, Mithun Manhas, Farveez Maharoof, Daniel Vettori, Rajat Bhatia, Amit Mishra, Ashish Nehra.
Kings XI Punjab:
Kumar Sangakkara (capt), Mahela Jayawardene, Adrian Barath, Yuvraj Singh, Karan Goel, Reetinder Sodhi, Irfan Pathan, Piyush Chawla, Juan Theron, Ramesh Powar, Love Ablish.
Gambhir won the toss and elected to bat first. Delhi were looking to seal their place in the semi-finals with at least two victories from their last three matches, while Punjab, who had beaten Kolkata and Mumbai, would like to keep their winning run intact.. The match started with Delhi taking on the field to bat. We could see nothing from where we were sitting. It is not the same as watching on television where you get detailed views of each ball along with expert comments and opinion. We also did not understand who was bowling and batting. It more looked like a bunch of school boys playing cricket match. Of course, the standard of fielding and catching was very high. The cheer girls appeared to know nothing about cricket. They were dancing at the cue of the DJ playing music to indicate that something exciting was going on!! There were wickets of the Delhi side tumbling one after the other and 111 runs was all they could muster up. We were expecting explosive batting from Sehwag, but he got out cheaply. There was a big screen showing the scoreboard and live TV. The Delhi crowd were not at their best because of their home team’s dismal performance. Gambhir looked to be good with excellent timing and placement but his innings was short lived and was run out. There were no DLF maximum at all during the entire Delhi innings. This let us and the home crowd down. This is not what IPL is meant to be! Is it?!
The Punjab team had an easy task ahead of them to chase down 111 runs. The only moment when the Delhi crowd erupted was when the first wicket of Irfan Pathan fell. That was the moment we wanted and expected from an IPL match. The atmosphere suddenly changed from murky to animated. But that was short lived as Sangakara and Jayawardene steadied the innings and bought the Punjab team towards victory. Yuvraj chipped in with 20 odd runs with a six to his credit. Piyush Chawla was declared Man of the Match for his bowling performance.
We did not wait for the presentation and hurried out among the scores of people getting out. When I reached my hotel, I turned on the TV to see the match review. According to the experts, it was a boring match, and that was what had to come our way on our first live cricket match! Tch..Tch..!! Gautam Gambhir said that he would like to play away games more as the Kotla ground was not as per expectation. The Kotla ground was again the focal point of controversy.
Nevertheless, I thought about how amazing a concept IPL was. Action packed cricket lasting just 4 hours and with the music, awesome management, IPL surely has completely transformed watching cricket live in the stadium. It is complete entertainment and good fun day out for everyone. More females can be seen at the stadium which was not the case a few years ago. IPL is not only a day of interesting cricket, it is a party – a celebration where even if your team turns up on the losing side, it is at least certain you had pretty good time at the stadium with all the music and power cricket (though the latter was absent in this match). For those of you who haven’t yet watched the IPLs, I would suggest at least one match live and you will know what I mean!
My personal favourite to win IPL 3 is Mumbai Indians! What with Sachin in such a divine form!