WANKHEDE DIARIES: THE DELUSION OF GRANDEUR

Power Play

There is nothing quite like gazing down upon a match ticket moments before the game begins. To be able to procure this rare treasure at a bargain price of Rs. 500 (North Stand, no less) a week before the much-talked-about Dead Rubber Third Test between India and West Indies, was a minor victory in itself. In the end, it’s all about watching them LIVE- no holds barred- no Arun Lal and no DRS and no Ravi Shastri and his priceless observations. 

Surprisingly, the ticket counters were empty when the tickets went on sale- with most eager fans waiting for that ‘toss’ to decide and manage their schedules of ‘falling ill’ and ‘attending a wedding’ over 5 days. The fans with decent foresight went through the minor discomfort of reaching the Wankhede counters a week in advance in order to avoid all sorts of chaos and black-ticketing on the ‘elusive’ day. 
Road to Perdition
 
Tickets booked, and we were ready to go. 100th ton or not, all we wanted was some good, tough Test Cricket for even 3 out of 5 days- especially after Australia and South Africa had once again rescued the format from utter doom. The stands were almost empty- especially when West Indies took the crease on the first day. Everyone, of course, was waiting for just one man to wield his willow, irrespective of the situation Team India ever found themselves in.
The match report will appear in the next post, and oh, what a competition it was. Only the second of its sort in the history of Test Cricket. We all know how that went down, and further analysis will be presented to you throughout next week. 
This post is only about the experience that is the ‘new and improved’ Wankhede stadium…
Once Upon a time in Old Mumbai…
 
Well, to call it an experience is a gross understatement. Mumbai seems to have the most passionate cricket fans in the country- Sachin Tendulkar or not. Because in no other country, city, state or even village, would any fan openly and haplessly tolerate the unrelenting torture inflicted upon them by the facilities (or lack of it) of this infamous ‘new’ stadium. If anything, Wankhede isn’t even the best stadium in Mumbai anymore, and not even second best. Good old Brabourne (CCI) tops the list, thanks to the well-maintained old-school beauty of the stands and the famous CCI pavilion that mirrors Lords. DY Patil is growing fast, and is a sheer spectacle when filled to the brim- resembling more of a coliseum surrounding a battle field, fabulous for the pure cinema of the venue. The distance is a killer, but when compared to the disadvantages of the stadium in question, DY Patil is an utter delight- even if it closer to Pune. 
The Prestige
 
Wankhede, oh Wankhede. Some things never change. The history and politics behind the re-building of this stadium in time for the World Cup Final 2011 is of least concern to a fan who travels from Borivli everyday to catch a glimpse of his hero take the crease, in appalling ‘winter’ weather and packed trains. None of us care about the zeros that went behind the ‘makeover’ of this stadium, because a makeover is supposed to make things look better. It is not supposed to cut off any sort of air or Oxygen supply to any fan that dares to enter the stadium without being a member or relative of some influential people. The North Stand, we thought, was a steal for 500 rupees- and history tells any spectator that a ticket to this stand guarantees you the best view in the house and relative comfort. The slash in prices would encourage Indian fans to follow Tests with the same passion and zeal as ODIs. The pricing was a masterstroke, and hope was restored- even for a few days. But we should have known- there is ALWAYS a catch.
As soon as we entered the stadium after a difficult trip that involved 8 security checks, 2 metal detectors, 4 molesters and 2 faulty electronic gates, the sight of that lovely turf took away all our pain…if only for the first few overs. Our spines creaked, the sun glared upon us unfortunate souls in the North Stand, and the constructors of this stadium must be given a prize of sorts for the invention of a section that completely nullifies any sort of breeze from the sea or open space nearby. 
The Old Wankhede stadium allowed some sort of ventilation, and breathable conditions in any stand, irrespective of the time of day. The daft glorified construction of the North Stand (overlooking the railway tracks) that resembles more of a parliament court than a sports venue, must be seriously considered if cricket is to survive after the demise of Sachin Tendulkar’s career. If anything, the fans have been cheated. But nobody will complain…because Sachin could always score his 100th.
It is always either the pitch, or the facilities, or both. With the much-hyped few hundred Crore makeover headed by none other than Sharad Pawar (who has been in the news recently for ‘one tight slap’), the least the MCA could do is respect their hardened fans a bit, and respect their posteriors in the process. The bucket seats that look more like an errant lego piece gone wrong- are a massive backbreaker for most people (especially middle-aged parents and senior citizens), but nobody will complain. Because Sachin could always score his 100th.
Fans Maketh a Kingdom, BCCI
 
One can only imagine what spectators went through during the World Cup final, where seats were bursting with enthusiasm and madness. The agony and pain was overlooked in favour of a miraculous once-in-a-generation World Cup victory, and of course, Sachin scoring his 100th. The expectations, the fervor, happiness, melancholy and sheer roller coaster emotions that take place during a regular day of cricket makes a Mumbai cricket fan very tolerant, because for him, just a glimpse of that man adjusting his crotch guard is more than enough. But how long will the MCA be in denial about meting out inhuman facilities under the guise of ‘overcrowded, overpopulated, Sachin-crazed madness’? How long will they expect a regular fan to fill a stand when they decide to give the go-ahead to greedy vendors that charge Rs. 10 for a simple plastic glass of water? Rs. 40 for an undercooked burger? Rs. 50 for a ‘mixed’ glass of cold Pepsi at the counter and Rs. 60 for the same glass in the stands at NOON? And will anybody forgive the administration if any one of us, short of sleep and fried by an unrelenting sun, decided to collapse and hit our heads on the concrete steps on the second tier of the North Stand- because WATER is unavailable after 3 PM due to excess demand? Excess DEMAND of WATER, during the hottest November in the history of this city? And we thought we had management issues at home. 
Anyhow, the famous ‘spirit’ of Mumbai will soon give way, and Sachin Tendulkar will soon get that elusive 100th ton. He may even retire in 2013. What will the MCA do then? Will they have reason to prevent the elegant Brabourne or the electric DY Patil from hosting Test Matches? 
Pull up your socks, MCA. You’re only a lawsuit away from potential disaster. All you need is an asthma patient and a pregnant woman looking for water on the first tier, and have your attendants tell them that you have run out of the priceless liquid.

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1 Comment

  1. monal

    November 28, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    attaboy harvinder. for slapping Pawar. even for different reasons. i also have asthma and will volunteer if my plight makes it to the papers after my collapse

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