Had gone to the Wankhede stadium here in Mumbai on Monday for the India-SA ODI.. Managed to buy tickets by using the 'connections' :-) and went to the ground after a gap of 7 years.. The first thing that strikes you when you take that walk from Churchgate station to the ground is the absolute carnival atmosphere.. thousands of people of all types (the fashionable youth, the middle aged gentlemen with their families and even pretty young ladies :-).. add to it the tricoloured banners which were being sold outside, people painting the tricolour on your cheeks for a paltyr 5 bucks.. all of this testimony to the amazing magnetic power that the game has..
I reached there at 1.45 pm and had to rush to the stands to ensure that I got a place to sit.. the gates open at around 11 am and people start tricking in immediately.. I was just in time... another 10 min delay and I would have had to spent 8 agonizing hours standing.. then I discovered the reason why.. some 10000 ppl had apparently got in with fake tickets... so a stadium with an offical seating capacity of around 42000 was packed with 55000 screaming fans... as with all other public places, trains etc in India (and esp in Mumbai) there were ppl, ppl, ppl everywhere.. and after a time it really gets suffocating.. which brings me to another point.. the Wankhede is an absolutely dull stadium without any charm.. it is actually not befitting Mumbai's status as the cricket capital of India (and after Pawar's win - the BCCI HQ).. it needs something to rival the Eden Gardens... but having said that, things would not change.. you would still have 120 thousand packed against the capacity of 100 thousand.. this happens only in India !!!!
As for the match itself, it was great fun.. Pathan got us off to a great start by taking few early wickets (esp Smith)... that immediately ensured the crowd got into a good mood early on... and when in a good mood, there are few crowds to rival those in Mumbai.. for once, even though they are less in numbers than the ones in Kolkata, Bangalore and Chennai.. they have wonderful synchronizations.. so the 'Sachiinnn Sachhinnn' ' Ganpati Bappa Moryaaaaa' can be heard loud and clear on the TV.. the Mexican wave also started in right earnest... and to their credit, the Men in Blue kept up the pressure (especially the fielding was at its athletic best).. and finally restricted the Proteas to 221..
During the supper break went to the canteen and it was absolute mayhem... people were literally falling over each other to get whatever grub was avaliable.. and all of it was over in 15 minutes.. and the loo was no better.. had to wait 10 minutes in a line to relieve myself.. the vendors of course, had a field day... a 350 ml Pepsi glass at 30 bucks, a chocobar icecream at 40 bucks but still a lot of takers.. one guy even had the nerve to come with a jar of 'mineral' water and proclaim 'Ek Glass sirf dus rupaye main'... finally managed to get a grill sandwich and a pepsi and went back to the stands.. by that time the lights were on in full glow and the stadium was a sight..
The Indian innings opened with the Sachin chants as Mumbai's favourite son came out to open the innings.. and he started off with a bang against Ntini and Pollock.. soon Sehwag joined in the fun and the crowd went wild... but Sehwag fell first followed by Sachin on just the first ball after drinks.. but thankfully for the crowd, the skipper played one of his trademark innings and Yuvraj played a gem of an innings to seal the victory...
So thus my proud record was maintained.. have now watched 2 tests and 2 ODIs at the Wankhede and India have won all of them... but more than that its the sheer experience of being at the venue of the match... its something else !!!!
Ciao for now