Ashish Nehra of India in action during a World Cup game against Netherlands © Getty Images
Ashish Nehra of India in action during a World Cup game against Netherlands © Getty Images


By Rahul Namjoshi


That Nagpur is fondly called the Orange City is well known. What most people don’t know is that the VCA Stadium is not-so-fondly called the no-range stadium. There is no net connectivity which meant that all one’s followers – to be honest, mostly spam bots – on Twitter who were anxiously waiting for on ground updates were left bitterly disappointed.


But one should start from the beginning rather than the end, unlike the Indian batting which normally starts as if it’s the closing stages of their innings. One had noticed that out of all the India cricket matches one had attended in person, not even one match was won by India. In fact, one had frequently got offers from the opposition teams to travel with them as their lucky mascot! But the allure of a good seat along with the chance to watch Sachin Tendulkar proved stronger than the fear of being branded as the harbinger of bad luck.


The Nagpur trip was planned at a very short notice which meant that one didn’t know where one would be staying, what mode of transport would get us to the stadium (given that its 20km from Nagpur city and there are no cabs around) and how would one be heading back to Mumbai. There were fall back options in place but they were not very pretty. It was painfully similar to the story of the Indian performance in the match.


Nagpur has two kinds of residents: Those who are related to Shashank Manohar and those who aren’t related but know Shahsank Manohar pretty well. Those who don’t fall in these two categories are deemed to be fake Nagpurkars and were the same ones who couldn’t find tickets to get inside the stadium. Many readers of Marathi literature assume quite wrongly that the famous book ‘Aahe Manohar tari’ (literallly translated as – ‘Though there’s Manohar’. The actual meaning is, ‘It’s captivating but…’ Manohar means, captivating or delightful) is written by one such disgruntled fake Nagpurkar who was unable to acquire tickets in the past.


On reaching the Nagpur airport, which was a stone’s throw away from The Pride Hotel where the Indian team was supposed to be staying – ‘stone’s throw’ being the operative words. One left the city early morning the day after the match and hence is unsure whether the hotel still carries the same name.


After being warned by everybody that there’s only one road that leads to the VCA Stadium (unlike Rome), it was but natural to reach the stadium two hours in advance. The practice session for both teams was under way and, as is usual, the Indians were playing football. The South Africans, on the other hand, surprisingly, were practicing bowling, catching and throwing. Apparently they believed that unlike their counterparts’ thinking, their players could still improve in the fielding department.


One does not propose to give a match report and will point that the one time that the stand went completely quiet was when Mahendra Singh Dhoni threw the ball to Ashish Nehra. It was almost in a state of shock and disbelief and if reports are to be believed Nehra was equally shocked to see the ball in his hands. Even the Saffer batters who were discussing and strategizing on a new method to choke in the middle forgot what they had planned. It was MSD’s shock and owww moment of the competition.


On the way back, the car had to take a U turn – which was 1.5km away from the stadium. It took almost 2.5 hours for the car reach from Point A to Point A. One had gotten nowhere after all that while. The India team too had suffered a similar fate where, after the highs of a sublime innings from a genius and a pounding by his partner, their progress on the road to World Cup glory was zero, if not negative.


Coming back from Nagpur to Mumbai was another ordeal that some how included Indore. But one finally managed to get back safe and sound. One thinks and hopes that the Indian team will also get home safe and sound to the quarter-finals, technical possibilities of a knock out notwithstanding.


(Rahul Namjoshi, an utter failure as an MBA, has no published novel to boast of and hence trying the next best thing – blogging. There, too, the results there aren’t too encouraging)