Experience Strangers-turned-friends, food stall lovers, attention seekers — the India-West Indies match saw loads of action off-field

George Bernard Shaw once said, ‘Cricket is a game played by 11 fools and watched by 11,000 fools'. The 40,000-odd spectators gathered at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium seem to contest that. Every person in the stadium has a sense of achievement writ large on their faces as they have beaten thousands of other cricket-crazy Chennaites to get a seat for this all important India-West Indies match. A sea of happy faces, some with the Tricolour painted on their cheeks, looks starry-eyed, waiting for their heroes.

It's a full house with people from various backgrounds; but, by the end of the game, most will become friends, shouting slogans together, sharing food and be on backslapping terms.

There is hooting, howling, ‘O Podu' and lots of music, but everything calms down once the teams take to the field for the national anthems. Soon, you hear booming music and ecstatic screams — Sachin Tendulkar is on strike. Who would want to miss the master batsman in action?

The electronic score board reads: “Tendulkar needs 45 runs to get to 18,000 runs.” But, the next thing you know, he's out. A voice from behind me says: “Vaa veetukku poalaam. It's depressing when he gets out.”

A momentary lull falls upon the stadium, but the energy is back with the Mexican Wave making its rounds. And, suddenly from batting strategy, the people around me discuss how to keep the wave going. “Andha stand mandhama irukke. Waste!” says an irate spectator, furrowing his brows.

The time of their lives

Mexican Wave or not, the middle-aged couple next to me is clearly having a fabulous time — swaying banners, waving, dancing, cheering and even praying, in between. “We are from New York, and have come here to watch the match,” says Mahendra Amin, even as his wife holds her hands up in prayer.

Meanwhile, a couple of photographers in jersey numbers 63 and 48, and armed with huge telephoto lens position themselves in front, obstructing vision. When all the “excuse me's” don't work, they get called numbers — “Aruvathi moonu”, “Naapathi ettu” and requested to move. It works!

Next, a television cameraman walks up and down with his video camera. The treatment he gets is different — people wave wildly, requesting him to capture them. When that fails, the smart alecs dance, sing, sport multi-coloured wigs, climb the gates and even refer to him as James Bond, in a bid to grab his attention.

Finally, its time for a double celebration, as Yuvraj Singh reaches the three-figure mark and the cameraman finally relents and focusses on our stand.

It's 6.15 p.m., and a gorgeous full moon gracefully emerges. A battery of camera flashes light up the stands like firecrackers on a dark night. The Indian innings comes to an end. There's blaring music — a mix of kuthu, hip hop, the sound of Kolkata's dhak, Enrique, and also JLo, if you please. Suddenly, there is a mass exodus of people towards the food counters — the second innings is when it gets exciting and the munchies are most required.

As the Indian players take their positions, there are screams of delight from the stand to our right. Sachin Tendulkar, walking up to their side of the boundary to take his position. Half the people from the upper stands are glued to the fence to take a closer look at their demi-God. We eye that stand wistfully till we see Yusuf Pathan walking towards us —and there are joyous shouts from here as well.

All the excitement becomes too much for even the giddy white puppy on the sidestand. It leaps onto the field, running amok with glee.

Apart from the game on the field, another one's taking place in the front row, that of musical chairs. Two over-enthusiastic men seated there are yet to return from the food counter — their seats are taken over, and they are forced to sit elsewhere, but not without a fight. And, for the rest of the match, they exchange angry glances at each other.

But, after India's victory, one of them goes up to the other, hugs and they break into a kuthu.

Clearly, all that matters is India's victory — it helped that the match was “paisa vasool” as a bystander put it!

Some unforgettable characters

Mr. Jumping Jack

He keeps who kept jumping up every time an Indian player’s bat makes contact with the ball. And, during the Windies innings, turns around and shows people how 3G calls work.

Mr. I-live-to-eat He munches non-stop and frequents the food stall every 15 minutes.

Ms/ Mrs. I think I’m transparent This young thing stands up every time she gets a call, talks at the top of her voice, giggles, tosses her mane and looks around to see if she’s being noticed.

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Priyadarshini PaitandyJune 28, 2012