Around the Wankhede

SIDELIGHTS: Ranji Trophy final, Mumbai vs Saurashtra

A Mumbai local train passes a boundary wall of the Wankhede Stadium, January 26, 2013, Mumbai. (Photo by Skandan …

AS ONE walks in through the Vinoo Mankad gate at the Wankhede Stadium, the ticket counter on the left is manned by a gentleman in charge of selling the paper that authorizes entry into the stadium for the big ticket final- Mumbai Vs Saurashtra. A smart alec offers him a 50 rupee note for a ticket that costs Rs. 150.

Like the man was going to buy that.

A first class pass.After returning the cash, without a ticket, he returns to his duties, giving away tickets to fans who are willing to pay the right price. Frisking is a routine affair, and once the men in the black safari suits are satisfied with  the contents of your baggage, the ‘first class’ ticket allows you to enjoy the biggest first class experience that Indian cricket has to offer — a Ranji Trophy final.

Past the food counters are fans posing to take pictures below the board that says Sachin Tendulkar stand, which is locked and empty. At least in the morning. As the deep throats in the North Stand chant his name, the little man goes about his duties at mid-on. Men-in-yellow shirts take your ticket, punching holes in them, every time you leave and re-enter. Not before tearing a piece, and dropping them into a cardboard box. For his records, perhaps.

It is Republic Day. So, there are a couple of Indian flags around, as the teams which have lions on their logos, get to work. One final time. Mumbai’s logo has the red lions and is crowned. They have won the tournament 39 times. Saurashtra, from the land of Ranji, are looking to win their first title in front of the television cameras. Interestingly the cricket stadiums at the home venues of both finalists have trains running behind them. Churchgate station has an over-bridge that leads into the Wankhede.

Mumbai are on track.

After the first day's play. As Dhawal Kulkarni runs in with his effective ‘no jump at the delivery crease’ action, it is clear that the right-armer will be flying high with economical figures, at the end of the day. It is a performance worth of the big stage. The Wankhede Stadium is built like a Colosseum, steel all around in a circle, and what look like shutters at the Sunil Gavaskar and Vijay Merchant pavilions. All we need are huge curtains. The sun goes up, so do the fans, looking for a seat in the shade, under the tiers above them.

Sachin Tendulkar takes a break, leaving the ground, and when he returns, fans throng the metal fence on either side of the dressing room. As he runs down the steps, they slip their fingers through. Eyes gleaming. Cameras and memory cards creating life-long memories. First Class cricket does offer them perks, even if they choose to be indifferent when the season is on in full flow.

Saurav Sanandiya loses his off-stump. Saurashtra are not sticking around.

Even as we watch kids with cricket kits entering the stadium, there are children with hockey sticks outside, getting back home after a game. The Mumbai Hockey Association is right behind the MCA Pavilion, the home of the Mumbai Magicians.

Irony?

Matches

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