NO WATER BOTTLES!
We finally reached our Gate 6. It was an easy entry since all access points were broad, wide and well-aired. A few hundred could be coming in every instant, but it never feels crowded. “The MCG has been designed to evacuate 100,000 spectators within 15 minutes”, Andrew told me.
Just before entering our bags were checked. The security personnel were friendly unlike the dour CISF officials at Indian airports. Cameras and binoculars were allowed; even the hefty transistor with multiple batteries – which would offer us the added pleasure of listening to Jim Maxwell on our earplugs – was allowed. Only filled water bottles (that could be hurled at players) weren’t allowed.
I told Andrew that at Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy Stadium we had giant nets acting as a barrier between players and spectators with water bottles. He was shocked. “Nothing should come between you and your cricket ground”, he declared. I remembered something similar that Brooke Shields had said in 1981, but said nothing.
IN THE ‘CATTLE CLASS’
A minute later, I was inside the MCG! It was an awesome engineering marvel. The outfield was unbelievably green with alternating light and dark shades of green in neat rectangular patterns. I felt a compelling urge to go and touch the grass, but we were too high up and too far away.
We were seated over second slip’s head with the Ponsford Stand to our left. Our seat was cramped – it would have reminded Shashi Tharoor of a plane’s cattle class – but I was amazed that I could see every inch of the ground; most Indian grounds have a blind spot because some metallic pillar hides some part of your view.
VICTORIA’S GREATEST CRICKETER
I allowed myself a few minutes to behold the grandeur of the MCG. The stands were still only half full, but there was a lot of activity near the pitch. Andrew used his binoculars for a better view and suddenly remarked: “Jesus, he’s really lost a lot of weight!” I had no idea who he was talking about, although I should have guessed. It was Shane Warne, Victoria’s greatest cricketer.
“You really love him here, don’t you?” I asked Andrew. “On the field, of course … but we don’t like what he does off the field!” We then talked of other Victorian cricketers and wondered why Peter Siddle was the only local in the Australian test team. “I think Brad Hodge is a good batsman, but how can he get in if he rubs Ricky the wrong way?” Andrew asked. I felt reassured. I thought such things only happened in India.