High-profile star, low-profile venue

SIDELIGHTS — Services vs Mumbai, Ranji Trophy Semifinal, Palam A Ground

Sachin Tendulkar (file photo)


Simplicity may have its upshot but not when it comes at the expense of basic convenience. Hosting its biggest match in memory, the Palam 'A' Ground left a lot to be desired so far as arrangements for mediapersons were concerned. For one, there were no chairs to sit. For another, there was no water. Leave alone internet access and five-star food, the press contingent was expected to cover a match as important as a Ranji Trophy semifinal without even primary facilities in place.

After numerous requests were unceremoniously ignored, a few journalists made their way to where they suspected the organisers were housed. Imagine their state of mind when they were summarily shunted out by an officious gentleman, and left to file reports on parched throats and shared a shared access to plug points.Things came to a head at the end of play, when a journalist was involved in a loud slanging match with an official. With four more days of play to go, watch this space for how this story within a story pans out.


The name still spells magic and allegiance and loyalty go for a toss when Sachin Tendulkar is included in the equation. News of the master batting in the vicnity ensured a decent turn out on the first day. There were people fringing the ground, schoolboys on rooftops, and a gaggle of admirers around the boundary.

Each time Sachin so much as glanced in their direction, a loud cheer rippled through the gathered masses. His half-century left the fans in raptures, and most of these were friends and relatives of the home team Services. Tendulkar's dismissal had the expected affect. Within ten minutes of his exit, the ground wore a deserted look again, and only those remained whose jobs required them to be present on the spot.


If you discount what happened over half-a-century ago, this has been an unprecedented season for Services. And a lot of it has been orchestrated by their motley collection of seamers. On Wednesday, medium pacers Suraj Yadav and Nishan Singh brought mammoth Mumbai to their knees. The visiting team were three wickets down for 23 on a misty morning, as Ajit Agarkar's decision to bat first backfired.

Yadav bowled with spirit and often rapped the batsmen on their pads, before finally getting the breakthrough. Nishan supported him ably, as the pitch continued to be of some assistance throughout the day. Just when Mumbai appeared to have righted their boat, Shadab Nazar fired out the stodgy Abhishek Nayar and Ankeet Chavan in the same over, allowing Services to accomplish the unthinkable - dominating three sessions against a side with a far superior pedigree.