Warming up for the World Cup
Lines of fans making their way to the stadium and placards reading ‘You can take the coffee cup, not the World Cup’ being sold outside the ground – the mega event seemed to have come alive after a few days of lull.
Before Sunday’s warm-up match featuring India and Australia, things were lukewarm. There was just a handful of cricket enthusiasts to see Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team practice, hardly any talk of the biggest event coming to town. All the talk about the competition was restricted to the media only.
Sunday presented a very different picture. In a restaurant just outside the stadium, people were discussing the strengths of the Australians and dissecting the composition of the Indian team. “Sreesanth isn’t useful in these conditions…Ishant would have been a better choice,” experts among the commoners were sharing their views with each other.
Inside the stadium, the Karnataka State Cricket Association president Anil Kumble and secretary Javagal Srinath were frantically supervising last-minute arrangements. Former players of their stature don’t usually get involved in such activities but these two have entered administration with the promise of making a difference.
There was a decent Sunday crowd too to watch what was after all an unofficial match. Runs scored and wickets taken in this match were of no serious consequence. But that did little to douse the excitement.
“It’s India vs Australia. The match is bound to be exciting. And we want to see how prepared Dhoni’s team is,” said Arees, a school student.
Not for nothing do they say cricket is religion in India. There were apprehensions about the duration of the World Cup and about the number of matches featuring teams with little cricketing credibility. On Sunday at least, all those talks were pushed to the background. There are still six days to go for the real thing to begin, but the final countdown has started with appropriate fanfare.
By Atreyo Mukhopadhyay