ANDHRA PRADESH

The hills come alive... with the sound of cricket!

`BLUE'PRINT FOR VICTORY: Team India in high spirits after the winning runs were scored during the fourth One Day International Match against Sri Lanka at the ACA-VDCA stadium in Visakhapatnam on Saturday. Photo: K.R. Deepak  

Sumit Bhattacharjee

Patriotism at its peak in the thrilling contest

VISAKHAPATNAM: With every hit to the boundary by `dada' (Saurav), Sehwag, Robin Uthappa and Yuvraj Singh the crowd at the ACA- VDCA Stadium rose to a Mexican Wave to cheer their favourite cricketing heroes.

A fan was heard saying `we will unsettle the Sri Lankans with our cheers'.

Cricket, no doubt, is the favourite sport for the people of this city. People had turned out in large numbers whenever an international match was hosted here and this being the decider of the four-match India- Sri Lanka series, the fans had left no stone unturned.

Makeshift stalls

Since 6 a.m. people were seen making a beeline to the stadium and for a change the wide four-lane National Highway 5 seemed to look small and narrow.

All along the route fans were seen stopping at the makeshift stalls to buy Indian flags, bandanas and headbands or get their face painted with the national tri-colour. Nationalistic fervour was its peak. Patriotism oozed from every fan who made his way to the stadium. They made it clear that this is one game that could not only bring the nation together but also bring it to its feet. Almost everybody, young or old alike, carried a national flag that varied from 6" to 10 feet.

Tri-colour flies

Painters made a few quick bucks by splashing the tri-colour on the fans. For the entire face the charge was Rs. 50 and for small flags on both cheeks it was Rs. 10. A person was seen wearing the national flag as a dress.

Once the match was on parents were seen helping their children to write placards. Charts and marker pens formed part of the paraphernalia.

Fitting climax

Though they cheered all cricketers, including Irfan Pathan who did not make it to the playing XI, the focus was on Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who blasted the Pakistani attack two years ago in the same venue.

A small gesture from him sent the crowd to raptures.

The well deserved win not only tuned in a fitting climax but people were seen going home with a satisfactory feeling that Team India is back on the rails with a bang for the coming World Cup in the West Indies.