By Madan Mohan
One reason I never visited stadiums to watch cricket in my school and college days was that all international fixtures at Mumbai were played at the Wankhede Stadium. The stadium may enjoy a fabulous location (though not better than the Brabourne next door), but I didn’t and don’t really fancy rickety wooden benches. As such, cricket grounds in India generally looked uncomfortable, untidy and uninviting at that time.
When I finally did watch a cricket match at the stadium (an IPL fixture) it was at the Brabourne Stadium. It was quite a pleasant and smooth experience despite the near-stampede like situation at the exit. Most surprisingly, the view from my seat was very good, contrary to what all I had heard and read about watching cricket matches at stadiums.
I was a bit disappointed that with the unveiling of the new Wankhede, Brabourne would once go off the radar of international and IPL fixtures. But the photographs and television images of the new stadium looked great. So, when a friend proposed that we watch the Mumbai Indians vs Deccan Chargers match on Saturday, I was up for it.
So, how does it score with this writer? As I said earlier, it’s a great location with terrific ambience. Marine Drive is just across the road from the stadium should you want to hang out and take in the sea breeze after the match - though boarding the last suburban train is likely be your top priority! There are plenty of fancy and not-so-fancy joints in the vicinity for a quick bite as well. It’s not quite as accessible as Brabourne, but it has more entry points and the crowd gets dispersed quickly.
As of now, infrastructure within the stadium appears to be top class. The view is superb and better than Brabourne. I was only three rows away from the square boundary ropes and got a more two-dimensional view, but the view from about ten rows higher is excellent.
For those of you who have never been to cricket grounds, a little bit on the differences between watching it on TV and in the stadium. You don’t wonder that Ravi Shastri flogs the expression “tracer bullet” to death because that’s what a delivery bowled at express pace or a ball dispatched a long way by a mighty heave looks like. You get a much better understanding of just how much (or how little, to be precise) reaction time a batsman gets when you see it in the flesh and blood. It is much more evident live that Ishant Sharma has perceptibly more pace and carry than Munaf Patel or Manpreet Gony (whether that counts for anything is your call). Big sixes definitely look a lot more breathtaking live than on TV and I was lucky to watch Keiron Pollard hit one way over the roof and out of the park.
But let me also take this opportunity to crush a myth about hearing the thunderous sound of ball hitting the bat that you apparently cannot experience on TV. In actual fact, you do not hear anything in the stadium, barring a feeble click because of all the decibel level generated by boisterous spectators. And since you can’t ask 30,000 people to shut up, your best bet is to choose a match with scant attendance to experience this – possibly a Test match! All in all, I hope the long overdue makeover of our stadiums that BCCI carried out for the World Cup will make the live experience more inviting for spectators. I am certainly up for going to this place again, though preferably for an ODI or Test match, ha!
And, what of the cricket? Mumbai Indians may be forgiven for thinking they are home and dry already, but if they lose momentum the way they did on Saturday, they may be left high and dry at the business end of the tournament. It’s baffling that such a long batting line up could not overcome 136.
The effectiveness and utility of Andrew Symonds is now a question mark. He was a seriously explosive limited-overs player in his heyday, but now appears listless. Granted, most batsmen from both line-ups looked listless on this pitch, but Symonds’ plodding tenure left too much on Pollard’s plate. As such, whether Pollard could be played at least one place higher in the order is worth considering.
Irrespective of their early qualification, Mumbai Indians are not without their share of worries and resting on their laurels could be the surest way to let yet another IPL title slip away. After the second lacklustre performance of the same week, they need to pull up their socks.
(Madan Mohan, a 25-year old CA from Mumbai, is passionate about writing, music and cricket. Writing on cricket is like the icing on the cake.)