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Cheering team India

Cheer on: Winners of the Airtel Competition. Photo: Special Arrangement  

Cricket is a great leveler – it brings together people from diverse background to come together to cheer their favourite team and players as they inch towards victory. In fact I have seen few things that can help bind 1.15 billion people of our country as easily as cricket.

I have been a cricket enthusiast all my life but never got the chance to watch a match live in the stadium. It was a dream come true to watch Yuvraj Singh and Virat Kohli, my favourite cricketers. Imagine my excitement when I got to know that I was one of the 30 cricket-crazy maniacs who were to be a part of the Airtel cricket fans who were to cheer for the Indian cricket team during the India-New Zealand ODI series. The contest was interesting also; we were rated on our hungama quotient. Apart from being cricket savvy, we had to be witty and chatty, nimble on our feet, know how to sing, whistle and add to the excitement on ground; after all we had to stir up the crowd from our ring side seats!

Across the country

There were many of us. From the plains of Assam (Guwahati) to the deserts in Rajasthan (Jaipur), from the dryness of Gujarat (Baroda) to the rains in Karnataka and the beaches of Tamil Nadu (Chennai), we came together closer to each other and to the beats of Incredible India. When we started our journey from our respective home towns, we did not think that we would be the heroes off stadium against our heroes on stadium known as the Airtel Cricket Fan Army. The bond we formed is now unbreakable and the time we shared together has made us almost a family. Even though we may not always be able to meet or be together, we keep in touch as much as possible to catch up on new happenings and reflect on this wonderful learning experience.

We cheered, laughed, cheered more and had even more fun while loving every second of the game in our official gear of vibrant and energetic red T-shirts and really cool red afro wigs standing out amongst the crowd.

We were treated as celebrities everywhere, with wonderful hotel stays and sightseeing trips like Chowki Dhani in Jaipur; Bollywood masala in Baroda; the Crawl Club, UB city in Bangalore and Marina beach in Chennai. We started cheering the men in blue right from Guwahati till Chennai and made a mark in the entire cricket fan fraternity including the cricketers, who recognised us off stadium as and when we got a chance to meet them.

Our signature steps of fours, sixes and outs were magical which persuaded India to win the series already with two more matches in hand. The entire nation followed with throughout the match during the victorious times. We received an amazing response in the stadiums with positive reaction from spectators cheering us on along with the team and some even joining in our celebrations.

We were commended by the players when we hung out with them at the lounges and pubs. We still remember the turning point in the series when we kept our fingers crossed in Baroda; if India won we were also winners.

We were even delighted when India proceeded to the victory by winning the series 5-0. Even the rains in Bangalore could not quench our passion and Yusuf Pathan himself got us back into the mood. The excitement was reaching a crescendo and we could see India making it to the top on the charts.

We interacted with the best of players like Irfan Pathan, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Yuvraj Singh and many more, in best of their moods when we got to meet them. They welcomed us warmly and gave us ample chances to click pictures with them. They said they liked to be cheered on by such a passionate group of supporters so clearly visible in the stands with attractive attire and fun filled celebrations that it boosted their confidence. They also said they played well owing to the positive support that we and all the spectators all over India showed them.

This journey is going to be my best experience, where I made best of buddies, fell in love with the game all over again and cheered the team and followed them to the victory. We would love to thank Airtel for bringing us closer to what we love — One India One Cricket!

CHENNAI ODI

A completely one-sided match. Indian spinners tore into the New Zealand batting attack with local boy R Ashwin bowling an amazing spell taking 3 wickets in 8 overs. Yuvraj Singh's two wickets from two overs and Yusuf Pathan's two wickets off 3 overs were the other highlights of the bowling performance. The Indians shone with the bat too: Yuvraj Singh's 42 off 46 balls with 6 smashing 4's and 2 inimitable 6's was accompanied by a brilliant knock by Parthiv Patel scoring 56 runs of 70 balls and finishing the game in style with a 4 off G Elliot

BANGALORE ODI

New Zealand put up a mammoth total of 315 with Franklin scoring an unbeaten 98, ably supported by Guptill (30); Brendon McCullum (42); Taylor (44) and Styris (46). During the Indian innings, there may have been a few minutes when New Zealand thought they could reverse their tide of losses but Yusuf Pathan had other ideas. His unbetaen 123 ensured that India maintained their winning streak.

VADODARA ODI

New Zealanders were high on confidence after James Franklin made a brilliant 72 runs from 108 balls but failed to get support from the rest of his team. After consecutive wickets fell, Franklin partnered with Nathan McCullum to steady the innings. NZ finished with 249. While Zaheer Khan and Ashwin picked 2 wickets each. Batting second, India made easy work of the target with skipper Gambhir scoring 126 and Virat Kohli 63.

GUWAHATI ODI

Gambhir - debuting as the skipper for this series - managed to pick the best 11. Deciding to bat first, the Indians managed to put up 276 runs. Gambhir, who made an effortless 126, got his first ton as skipper. In reply, Ross Taylor made a breezy 66 in 69 balls, while the rest of the team went down tamely. It was the fast bowlers' day, as Sreesanth and Munaf Patel picked up 3 wickets each. Though Andy McKay's 4-wicket haul included top Indian players, India romped home.

JAIPUR ODI

After a slow and confident knock by the New Zealand opener Martin Guptill, the visitors failed to capitalise. They lost wickets at regular intervals as Indian bowlers especially Sreesanth, made their case. Newcomer Wriddhiman Saha made some spectacular efforts behind the wicket. New Zealand Skipper Chasing a target of 258, the Indian batsmen patiently put their innings together. Kiwi skipper Daniel Vettori tried valiantly to contain the Indian batsmen, all in vain. Skipper and Man of the Match Gambhir's 138 helped India canter home.

Vandana is pursuing MBA from Sikkim Manipal University

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Printable version | Apr 22, 2021 3:16:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/nxg/Cheering-team-India/article15594158.ece

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