It's better up there in the media box!
Having covered many a Test match from the media box, Bikash Mohapatra watched Day 2 of the second Test between India and the West Indies from the Wankhede stands. At the end of it, he says never again!
As a child, I remember accompanying my father/grandfather to the stadium to watch cricket. It wasn’t that cricket was (or is) my favourite sport. But there’s a certain enthusiasm about watching a match from the stands, cheering for your favourite star.
It was great fun back then, and, definitely, something that inspired me to cover sport in general, and cricket in particular, after ditching a job as human resource manager for one as media professional.
But that was back then.
To be honest I don’t remember the last time I watched a whole match from the stands, cheering with the crowd, doing the Mexican wave and eating junk through the day.
The last few years I covered a lot of cricket, seen a lot more matches and witnessed history being made on more occasion than one. However, all that was from the confines of the media box, one of the few advantages accrued to a media professional.
There are instances when you move out of the box and watch the match along with the crowd. But that is more to wriggle yourself out after spending hours writing, a bit of stretch here and there, a chat with friends or, maybe, to watch a landmark moment.
However, truth be told, for something that is as time consuming as cricket, you need to watch it either from a VIP or media box.
The passion of Indian fans needs to be applauded
The never-ending passion of Indian fans needs to be applauded. The fact that they brave adverse conditions to cheer their favourite stars deserve a salute. And their insatiable energy needs to be complimented.
Yes, watching a match from the stands needs guts. And I had to muster enough of it to contemplate going to watch the second Test against the West Indies at the Wankhede.
It happened to be the 200th and final match of arguably the greatest cricketer of all time – Sachin Tendulkar. Having covered the legend’s 199th Test at the Eden Gardens last week, and exhausted having done a plethora of stories in the lead up to the farewell, it was just about watching the match.
Day One was all about standing in queue that was more than a kilometre long and getting ‘that’ feel all over again. The fact that the West Indies batted first served as an excuse to get out earlier than expected. Yes, I missed the Master Blaster’s batting on the opening day.
The Master Blaster completed a quick fifty
Day Two was all about anticipation. Sachin started on a confident note on the previous afternoon, raising hope of a big innings in his farewell game. Even as I was waiting to enter the ground, I found a microphone thrust at my face by a friend who works for a television channel.
“Aap Sachin ko kuch message dena chahenge (Do you want to give any message for Sachin?),” he asked. I raised my head, took off the glares and looked at him. He smiled back. Interview over.
As I headed towards my seat I came across a bunch of friends (from the media) who had come with the same purpose as me.
“Ek saath khade hoke cheer karte hain, jab tak gala na baith jaaye (Let’s stand up and cheer till we have a sore throat),” suggested one. And so we began, in unison, uttering that name again and again.
The Master obliged, hit a few great shots and completed a quick fifty. The crowd cheered for the legend and jeered for the visitors throughout, some of the abuses hurled at the latter (Tino Best, in particular) was in real bad taste.
All the fun lasted for a good 40-45 minutes. Then Sachin was dismissed. He was applauded on his way back to the pavilion, something befitting the legend that he is.
Then began the ordeal...
Then began the ordeal, something those who watch matches regularly from the stands are used to; something that those who work from the confines of the media box are not.
The cold drinks were anything but cold, the food was anything but warm, the seats anything but comfortable, and the lavatories, well, let’s not get into that. The fact that the best restaurant around preferred to remain shut on the day made matters worse.
Besides, you had to get up and step aside every time there was a movement. With a paucity of space it was anything but comfortable. The seats at the Wankhede seriously need to a rework.
As the day wore on, and the breeze died down, it became worse.
The Master won't be batting again in this Test
The crowd was, by then, was doing a volte-face. First they wanted MS Dhoni to declare the innings. Then they cheered for the West Indies, egging their bowlers on.
Yes, they hadn’t had enough of their favourite batsman and wanted to see him bat again. Not that it was going to happen. The home team batted the entire day and had the opposition on the mat by the end.
As the long day came to a close there was relief that one did not need to come back on Day 3. The Master won’t be batting again in this Test.
“You won’t get the feel if you don’t watch it from the stands,” said a friend, as we made our way out of the ground.
I beg to differ.
Next time, I will stick to the media box, and make occasional forays to the stands. Spending the whole day in the stands is no more fun!