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The Rediff Special/Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi
How a Sikh gent got Salman Butt out!
April 17, 2005
When President Pervez Mushrarraf is at the Ferozeshah Kotla cricket ground in New Delhi, your ticket worth Rs 5,000 means nothing. There is no concession whatsoever to people holding that expensive piece of paper.
The Ferozeshah Kotla ground, where Musharraf briefly watched the last India-Pakistan one-day game in the company of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, was packed with security officials on Sunday.
They were there in plain clothes, they were there in khaki and they were there dressed in smart suits.
Also see: Musharraf explains cricket to PM
Some cops were drawn from nearby cities in Uttar Pradesh and they had no clue which access led where in the stadium.
Their brief was simple -- just make it as difficult as possible for anyone and everyone to get wherever they wanted to go.
There were scores of police teams with equipment to detect bombs, and there were at least 200 policemen in each stand. Many more where the Pakistani fans were seated.
There are several types of fans in this cricket crazy country.
The most powerful of them are those who have their fathers and uncles in powerful positions in government.
Complete coverage: Cricket and Kashmir -- Musharraf in India
These people carry complimentary passes and are invariably dressed in the most expensive foreign brands. They eat a lot, drink a lot and cheer only for the home team.
They are patriots first and cricket fans later.
At the Kotla on Sunday in one such stand reserved for Delhi's elite, it was difficult to spot a fan who was carrying the Rs 5,000 ticket required to be there.
The stadium itself was in shambles, the parts under construction covered clumsily.
Only in India can the administrators think of conducting a cricket match -- that too such an important one -- in such conditions.
Also see: Musharraf prays for peace
But the cricket fans were not complaining.
Rohit Bajaj, who is studying engineering, managed a pass through a senior secretary-level officer in the Delhi government. When the second over was being played, he said, "If you want to enjoy cricket, you should sit in the cheaper parts of the stadium. Fans there have a lot more energy."
You bet, Rohit.
When Sachin Tendulkar was sent to field near the East Stand after the first couple of overs, the roar that erupted from that part of the ground was deafening. You had to hear it to believe it.
Rohit was closer to the VVIP enclosure where Musharraf was seated. But that didn't excite him much.
"Politicians play their own games. Anyway, I am sure no self-respecting Indian can forget Kargil. Kashmir diplomacy or cricket diplomacy, no one cares."
Before he could finish, Shahid Afridi hit a four. Rohit's school-going sister said, "If Afridi does not get out, India will be out."
Also see: Delhi 2005 will not be repeat of Agra 2001
When Ajit Agarkar misfielded a ball conceding a boundary, Rohit's sister said: "Man, he is not playing much of cricket these days. It shows."
What is the downside of watching cricket live?
"You can't watch action replays," said Rohit.
A Sikh gentleman suddenly got up.
"Please excuse me. I need to take a break. My wife is saying a Pakistani wicket will fall if I visit the toilet."
Believe it or not, even as we made way for the gent to leave, Salman Butt was out -- caught Virender Sehwag bowled Zaheer Khan.
The scorecard will never mention the Sikh gentleman. But he wouldn't mind. Nor would his wife.