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Maiden bowled over by Zaheer

March 26, 2005 22:01 IST

Holi saw the M. Chinnaswamy stadium attract the biggest crowd of the ongoing Test. The spectators, some smelling of and covered in gulal, were brought to a frenzy by India's essential playmaker, Virender Sehwag. His entertainment value was indicative of the fact that the stands started emptying out after he was out.

The dashing opener, with a boisterous innings of 201, had again given them memories to cherish.

In the VIP box sat two of his fans. One was his wife Aarti, who nervously watched him top the 100 and 200-run mark.

"I am always nervous when he is in the 90s," said Aarti. "But I don't think he is ever under pressure. He is very cool, whatever the situation."

Aarti, who left the stadium after Sehwag was dismissed to a meek return catch to Danish Kaneria, said she is pretty much used to him scoring hundreds by now.

"In Tests, yes, I haven't seen him score too many in the One-Day Internationals though," said the 23-year-old communication studies graduate.

The other person floored by Sehwag's innings was Pakistan's former opener and administrator Hanif Mohammed. The 70-year-old, who had been the reference point for conservative openers in Asia, cherished Sehwag's blistering knock.

"I really enjoyed seeing him bat. He is a little unconventional for an opener, but just look at the way he slams the ball," said the Pakistani.

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It was a piece of television drama. The girl blushed, the boy smiled, the people joined in the fun.

As the cricketers waited for Rahul Dravid to join Sehwag at the wicket, the cameras blissfully focused on a girl in the audience who carried a message for one of the Indian cricketers.

"Zaheer, I love you," it read.

Her face, depicting the tricolour, changed to deeper shades of red when the clip was shown on the mega-screen at the Chinnaswamy stadium.

Then the cameras shifted to Zaheer, happily enjoying the attention in the Indian dressing room.

Cut to the girl, who blew kisses to the cricketer.

Zaheer again smiled and, after some encouragement from Yuvraj Singh, returned the favour.

The girl couldn't stop gushing at the sight and covered her face with her love message.

The producers then joined the still shots of the two. The mega-screen held the attention of all, including the Pakistani fielders and Sehwag all the while and none came out without a smile.

The star of the day, we discovered, was a 19-year-old Noor Hussain from Siliguri, completing college in Bangalore.

"I was embarrassed seeing that note on television earlier," said Noor. "But I was absolutely ecstatic when Zaheer blew a kiss to the screen."

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Even though the stadium was almost full to capacity, one stand at the ground level lay bare. Four Pakistani flags waved through the day from there, and Abdul Jalil 'Chacha' joined in the handful of spectators there to liven the proceedings.

The stand was meant for Pakistani fans. 860 tickets had been sold by the Pakistan Cricket Board, out of which only 35 people had turned up for the game. The main reason behind it was that the Pakistani fans were issued visas a day after the match started.

Some of them would need four days to get to the venue. The 35 who did come flew in to India. Among them, some found a round of shopping and sightseeing better than a day of cricket.

Deepti Patwardhan
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