The IPL season was on and everyday lunch table conversations revolved around it in office. It came as no surprise when one of the guys suggested watching the semi-final live at the stadium and the others jumped at it. Me? Not really. The tickets cost a bomb and I was penurious from a recently-joined art class and a recently-attended friend’s wedding. The team I had been rooting for was not a part of this game. Moreover, None of the few cricketers I knew were playing in the qualified teams(Kolkata Knight Riders and Sun Risers Hyderabad), except Yuvraj Singh.
But I had never been to a cricket stadium or watched a game in action before(neither did I want to be a wet blanket to their plans). I promised myself that I will curb my dessert cravings for a while and make up for the ticket cost (spoiler – lame consolation. Never happens). I agreed to join them.
The day of the game arrived. We wrapped up work early and by 7.30 pm, we were on our way to the stadium. I felt excitement gush through me as I walked up the steps leading to the stadium. The bright floodlights swamped the area with light, giving the delusion of a sunny afternoon, and the crowd eagerly chit-chatted away while the food vendors noisily hawked Lays and vada-pavs in the background.
The players entered the ground and the crowd broke into thrilled applause and whistles. The first ball was bowled and the shouts grew louder. I sat there, wide-eyed, like a kid watching the circus for the first time.
While the guys concentrated on the technical aspects of the game (a few words I caught were offside, mid wicket, good pitch,…….vada pav, Lays, samosa), I was looking at the smaller unnecessary details. Wouldn’t the player standing near the boundary be bored? Did the cheer leaders run to the podium every time there was a six? Does the umpire stand still throughout the game? Will the spider cam fall on a player’s head? How is it balanced on thin strings from the beams? Was that multicolored hair or was it a wig? It was natural that I missed all the important wickets and a couple of sixes. Bummer, there were no replays.
Two wickets down and Yuvraj walked onto the field. The atmosphere turned electric with shouts of “Yuvi! Yuvii!”. Ten balls down, he walked off the field. There was a brief minute when the camera concentrated on Shah Rukh Khan waving and I spent the rest of the game trying to spot him in the crowd. I did successfully spot him (or rather an insect-sized version of a person wearing the same color dress who I conveniently assumed to be him) at the other end of the stadium.
The first innings were coming to a close and that’s when we noticed it. The winds brought with them a thin white fog – the first signs of a downpour. The drizzle grew stronger and the players sprinted to the safety of their changing rooms while ground workers rushed to cover the play areas with tarpaulin sheets. We stepped out into the cafeteria to grab something to eat.
The place was overcrowded with hungry people hurriedly wolfing down pizzas before the second innings started. A needless worry, they would discover later. The guys discussed the game in great detail while I intently listened to the drumming of rain on the aluminium sheets.
An hour later, we went back to our seats to see people inspecting the ground and rollers with sponge wheels on standby. The torrent reduced to a drizzle and the ground was abuzz with activity, with people on the stands hollering with relief. The ground workers got cheers as loud as the ones Yuvi got. The sheets were removed, the central pitch was broomed, the ground was inspected by the umpires and the sponge rollers got to work. I was fascinated by the whole process and how the ground seemed clear of any sign of wetness. The guys educated me about the draining system beneath the green carpet and how some football fields had a heater underneath to melt and drain snow (general knowledge dose for the day).
The final sheet was removed and the crowds went crazy. The rain gods must have heard it and misinterpreted it as cry for more rain. To everyone’s dismay, the shower started again, with more intensity this time. One hour down and the skies showed no signs of stopping. It was 11 pm and people started walking out. 15 minutes later, we followed suit, grumbling about the wasted money.
As I walked back on the dimly-lit streets under the drizzle, I felt oddly content at the memories made from the day. The rain had played spoilsport for some, for me- it had enriched my stadium experience. The scenes from the day flashed before me as I hit the bed – the cheering crowds, Yuvi at the crease, Shah Rukh Khan waving, the ground being cleared, the sound of rain drumming- and I drifted off to sleep.
(PS. We came to know that the match resumed an hour after we left. So much for waiting out for hours on end)