The Indore fans had saved the face for the BCCI after the unfortunate incidents at Cuttack last year during the India-South Africa ODIs. And they have delivered again    IANS
The Indore fans had saved the face for the BCCI after the unfortunate incidents at Cuttack last year during the India-South Africa ODIs. And they have delivered again IANS

The long wait of the cricket purists in the city of Holkars for a Test match being played on their soil finally ended with the third Test between India and New Zealand getting underway on October 8. Indore has had a rich cricketing legacy, with India s first Test captain Col. CK Nayudu and the likes of Syed Mushtaq Ali, CS Nayudu, Chandu Sarwate, Narendra Hirwani, Rahul Dravid, Amay Khurasiya and more recently, Naman Ojha, all coming from the city. All these players were either born or played most of their cricket here and went to represent the Indian cricket team, thus helping Indore establish an identity on India s cricketing map.

And as they say, a game is nothing without its fans; the Indore fans too have played a crucial role in the development of sport in this region. Time and again they have proved that their appetite for cricket is insatiable. Not only the One-Day International (ODI) and the Indian Premier League (IPL) matches being held in Indore in the past have been successful with massive turnout, but domestic tournaments with presence of star players have attracted huge interest too. The matches of NKP Salve Challenger Trophy 2013, which had the participation of some big names in Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli et al, consistently registered an attendance of over 15,000, with Holkar Stadium s capacity being 27,000.

So when the audience turnout in Tests started drying up at traditional centres, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) dialled S for smaller centres, with Indore getting the first chance to host its maiden Test this season. And did the fans disappoint? Absolutely not.

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The online sale of tickets began on September 27, with the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association (MPCA) offering 9,000 tickets in the first lot. Close to 7,000 were sold on Day 1 itself and had there not been a technical or server glitch, the figure could have been more. Similar excitement was visible when ticket selling from the counters began. People turned up well before time to ensure they don t miss out and waited patiently for hours for the distribution to begin.

When the D Day arrived, it looked like all roads of the city led to the Holkar Stadium. People thronged the ground to watch the historic first ever Test on their soil and to become a part of the history.

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The buzz was palpable as I reached to the ground early morning on Day 1. There were long queues on all the entry gates as fans started arriving hours before the scheduled start. There was a high demand for Team India jerseys outside the stadium and there was adequate supply as well. The vendors selling Team India merchandise, blow horns, whistles, flags etc occupied the Stadium surroundings hours before the start. They had stuff ranging from INR 50 rupees to 300. All the enthusiasts who wanted to support the team by painting tricolour on their face were not disappointed either, as the tattoo and paint artists were available in good numbers too. In fact, they somehow made their way to the second level of security screening and were offering their services at the parking area too.

Vendors selling flags and other paraphernalia outside the Holkar Stadium in Indore. The Stadium map can be seen in the background.
Vendors selling flags and other paraphernalia outside the Holkar Stadium in Indore. The Stadium map can be seen in the background.

There were fans of all age brackets. There were many groups of young kids between the age group of 4 10 years being accompanied by their parents. Four-year old Saanvi, who does not understand what cricket, or even stadium for that matter, means, was at the ground with her parents Bhushan and Pranjali. Interestingly, the Bengaluru couple had come to the ground only for their daughter, as they wanted her to experience the thrill. We were in the city for Dussehra break and decided to catch up with the historic first Test. Though we have been to Chinnaswamy quite a few times, this was a completely different experience. Our initial plan was to come to the ground for an hour or two, but we ended up watching two sessions, said Bhushan Telang, an IT professional.

Same was the case with another IT professional from the city Sharad Bapat, working and residing in Hyderabad these days. Being an avid cricket fan, he had marked the date in his calendar the day Indore Test was announced. I had applied for the leave well in advance. There was no way I was going to miss the first-ever Test in Indore. Nothing can beat this experience, were his words. Septuagenarian Rama Devi Chauhan too had come to the venue, with her son, daughter-in-law and grand children. I have been to the ground before but this is special, the maiden Test. I want to see Virat Kohli score a hundred, she said. And boy, her wish did come true. Then there was Jasdeep Singh, city boy studying management at the KJ Somaiya institute in Mumbai, who had come specially to see the historic maiden Test at the cost of his studies, and Tanmay Trivedi, who looks after his family business and had to seek leave from his own uncle to catch the Test match live.

There were students from schools and colleges, there were local businessmen, working professionals and retired professionals, who all turned out to see the match.

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The security arrangements too were elaborate for the game, with the private security agencies being deployed apart from the tight police bandobast . The local administration did a terrific job, considering the match coincided with the festive period of Navratris. Interestingly, after the day s game at Holkar, people would gather in the basketball complex situated in the vicinity for garba in the evening. This posed a serious challenge to the security men, but they have dealt with it incredibly well so far.

Vehicular movement at one side of the race course road, where the Holkar Stadium is located, was shut. Vehicles were not allowed on the road coming from Janjeerwala square towards the lantern square. The security screening was at four-levels and fans were asked to produce their pass at every level. Water bottles, coins, cameras, food packets etc were prohibited. So were the blow horns, but some jugaadu ones somehow managed to sneak in with them.

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Once inside the Stadium, the fans were soon getting into their elements. Not for a second was there a dull moment. Some felt the atmosphere was a mismatch with the format perhaps, with the loud, boisterous crowd cheering every single as if it was a limited-overs game. There were random chants.. Gambhir.. Gambhir.. When the southpaw hit two sixes off Matt Henry, Viru.. Viru.. every time the explosive former opener made his way to the ground during session breaks as a TV presenter for the broadcasters show and Sachin.. Sachin.. simply out of nowhere.

There were the Mexican waves that originated from the West stand and flew through the east stand, pavilions and on and on.. Then there was the famous mobile torch wave, which the Indore crowd invented last year during India-South Africa ODI at the same venue, for a brief while on Day One with the conditions getting overcast. The blow horns and whistles blew throughout the days play with full vigour.

The Indore fans had a legacy to take care of. They were also given this huge responsibility of saving the Test cricket, which some felt was dying after low turnouts in the Caribbean, South Africa and bigger centres in India recently. They had saved the face for the BCCI after the unfortunate incidents at Cuttack last year during the India-South Africa ODIs. And they have delivered again. It was not just Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane who hit hundreds in this historic Test. The Indore crowd also hit one as they score a 100 out of 100 for making the match a memorable one.

(A self-confessed cricket freak, Chinmay Jawalekar is a senior writer with CricketCountry. When not writing or following cricket, he loves to read, eat and sleep. He can be followed here @CricfreakTweets)