Long queues in front of ticket counters, fans hang around to catch a glimpse of cricketers

“Do they serve beer inside?” asked Dylan Hillis with his sweat-soaked t-shirt sticking to his back.

There was disappointment writ large on the young Canadian’s face when told that beer will be a banned commodity inside the stadium during the One Day International match between India and England at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium on Tuesday.

Dylan is part of a six-member group of tourists who queued up along with local fans under a blistering sun at the stadium counter for tickets on Monday. The group had two persons from England and Germany, one from Scotland and one from Canada. They were having fun while waiting in the queue, often drawing the attention of the crowd with their laugh-out-loud moments.

Germans Thorge Proftlich and Arue Hamann know nothing about cricket. So what were they expecting from the game? “Well, they can watch Monty Panesar in action,” said Will Renville, from England, hinting at the popularity of the English spinner of Indian origin.

Will was badly coping with the severe heat in the city and was seen pressing the chilled mineral water bottle against his neck repeatedly to get some respite. Dan Rex, another English fan, had heat rashes behind his neck, indicating the severity of the weather.

The Scottish Kevin O’Hanlon was full of exuberance as he pulled out his country’s flag and posed for a snap with his screaming friends who root for an England victory.

Considering the crowd at the stadium, a cricket-illiterate could be forgiven for presuming that the match was being held on Monday. While there were long queues in front of the stadium counters for the remaining chair and gallery tickets, there was a large number of young cricket fans just hanging around to soak in the atmosphere and catch a glimpse of the cricketers.

The star among the fans was Sudhir Kumar Chaudhary, also known as Sudhir Kumar Gautham, known for his fanatic following of Sachin Tendulkar and the Indian team. The flag-waving Sudhir, painted in tricolour along with the words Tendulkar and India inscribed on his head and body, is a familiar sight in the gallery wherever the Indian team plays.

His status as Sachin’s most dedicated fan has been serving as his ticket to most venues hosting the Indian team and it was no different in Kochi. Sudhir, clad in a Sachin jersey, was taken to the ground where the Indian team was practising and he kept waving the huge Tricolour throughout the session.

Ramachander, a flag vendor from Bangalore, knows too well that patriotism assumes sound business proposition in this country during cricket matches. And so he was in the city, selling flags priced between Rs. 100 and 150 alongside the ticket counter at the stadium.

Anand from Tamil Nadu was also looking to make a few quick bucks selling team jerseys for Rs.100-Rs. 150 and Indian team caps priced at Rs. 50-Rs. 150. “I have brought enough stock and hopefully, the sales will pick up tomorrow,” he said.

Jibal, a native of Kozhikode doing hotel management course in the city, was excitement personified as he slipped in to a newly bought jersey. “It’s going to be a great day and a Team India victory will be the best way to finish it off,” he said.

Jinsa, training to be an air hostess, was among the few women fans braving the heat and standing in queue for a ticket. While an Indian victory is important, she is more thrilled to witness the charming Virat Kohli in action.

Madhavan, leading a retired life, finds the game one of those rare days of excitement in an otherwise monotonous life. His only complaint was that the sale of ticket was taking too much time leaving the fans to swelter in the heat.

However, no one will be complaining on Tuesday morning when the 25-odd gates to the stadium will open, a good three hours before the game, taking in thousands of enthusiastic fans who will create a festive atmosphere inside the stadium with their drum beats and chants. Now, the team needs to perform to keep up their spirits.

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