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Low crowd turnout amid tight security in Jaipur
Krishnakumar in Jaipur | May 18, 2008 01:08 IST
Just about an hour before the Indian Premier League match between Jaipur and Bangalore was to begin, the first spectators -- two 15 year olds -- walked into the Rs 1500 enclosure of the Sawai Man Singh stadium. After sitting idle for a while, one of them asked a Rajasthan Cricket Association staff, who was on the ground next to an empty raised platform: "Bhaiyya, cheer girls kahan hain?"
It was the fourth day after the serial blasts had rocked Jaipur, claiming 63 lives and the city was already back on its feet.
But extreme security measures meant most of the spectators stayed away from the Sawai Man Singh stadium, which has been packed for all its home games. Instead of the usual 500 policemen, some 3000 policemen and more than 200 private security personnel manned the ground.
"A friend gave me passes yesterday. But I gave it back since there would be tight security and getting in would be a problem," said Rahul Singh, an auto rickshaw driver.
He was right. Spectators were not allowed to carry mobile phones and even everyday items like pens. When a spectator tried to convince a gatekeeper that there shouldn't be a problem with him carrying a pen, the youngster at the gate brimmed: "We have even confiscated toffee from a kid, sir. How do you expect us to allow you to carry the pen?"
Spectators were frisked at three security points before being shown their seats. When it was time for the toss, only one stand had filled and all the other had spectators scattered here and there.
Before the match began, IPL chief Lalit Modi handed over a cheque for Rs 6 crore to Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundara Raje Scindia. The eight franchises had each contributed Rs 50 lakh, and five major sponsors contributed Rs 40 lakh each.
The two teams -- sporting black arm bands -- then observed two minutes silence as a mark of respect for those killed in the blast. As in the field, here too Shane Warne [Images] stood out. Just before the crowd rose to observe silence, Warne threw a quick glance at his team and gestured them to shed their shades and remove their caps.
That was the last the blasts were mentioned.
With only minutes left for the action to start in the middle, television star Rohit Roy and pop singer Ila Arun went around the stadium singing the home team's anthem Halla Bol.
"We might not have cheer girls today, but that shouldn't stop you from egging the team on. Aap logon har ball pe halla bol bole. (Say Halla bol for every ball)," Ila Arun said.
The stadium was not even half full when the first ball was bowled. But as the match progressed and Rajasthan's opening pair of Asnodkar and Smith was smothering the Bangalore attack, the stadium slowly started to fill in.
It was clear that most of them were first timers. An old couple among them said: "This is the first time we are coming to watch a match here. We thought since there won't be much crowd, it would be best to catch the match today," said 60-year-old SK Khandelwala, who had come with his wife Savitri, said.
Asked if he did not have any concern stepping out merely days after the deadly blasts, he said: "That was in the city. And that was four days ago!"