World cricket comes home

Ranchi, Jan. 19: Ian Bell tries to cut a sharp one off Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the 16th over of the game and the darling of the Ranchi crowd laps up the nick standing up to the stumps. The next moment, the Indian captain is up in the air with his back arched, celebrating his first entry into the scoreboard at his home town.

The JSCA stadium is euphoric.

"I knew Dhoni would do something special today. I just knew it," Raunak Prakash, a student of Class VII at St. Xavier's School, Ranchi, blurted out, as pumped up as any one in the ground and jumping for joy.

But the tumultuous roar of the 35,000-strong crowd at the stadium meant that his sister Reeti, who studies in Class IX at Loreto Convent, could not hear what he was saying standing next to him. That, of course, gave Raunak another chance to talk on his favourite subject ' Dhoni ' after the next England batsman Eoin Morgan had taken stance and the noise had begun to subside.

"I was sure he (Dhoni) would do well. This is Ranchi, his hometown, he is the captain of India and he is in such good form. It's like a perfect script and it can't go wrong now," said Raunak, reflecting the mood of everyone else on the occasion of the grand debut of the pictorial Jharkhand State Cricket Association International Stadium Complex.

Little could the boy have known then that England would score just 155 runs, the Indian batsmen would cruise towards the target, everyone would be resigned to the fact that Dhoni will not be required to bat and then with Yuvraj getting out with 12 runs for victory, his hero was going to promote himself ahead of Raina and hit the winning runs in the 29th over of the next innings.

When Dhoni trod out to the centre, of course, the ovation was outstanding as the whole stadium, which had given up hope of seeing him bat, went hysterical. Before that, in the England innings, Dhoni had taken two more catches, those of Kevin Pietersen and Joe Root.

Siblings Raunak and Reeti were fascinated by the look of the new ground, which can boast of being the only cricket stadium in the country to sport hilly slopes for spectators that Indian audiences saw only on TV during matches in Australia, West Indies and South Africa.

"This stadium is engineered in such a away that there are no pillars in the stands. So, the spectators can see the match without obstruction," reminded Raunak.

It was the first family outing on a cricket ground for many Ranchiites. And they played the part of a good audience to perfection, being at the top of their voice at appropriate moments as well as on pure whim.

As in any other modern ground, the women in Sunday clothes and fashionable shades turned up, some sporting swanky headgear (one had Micky Mouse reclining on the top of her black hat), knowing just what the TV cameras look out for.

Face painters, whose handiwork graced the faces of Raunak and Reeti as well, and flag sellers also made their debut outside the ground.

For 66-year-old Barun Roy, who proudly says "born and brought up in Ranchi" it was an emotional moment sitting in the very comfortable metal chairs installed at the ground.

"I have watched matches at Eden Gardens since the early 1970s and then I was an ODI at the Keenan (in Jamshedpur). But I never thought I would be able to see an international match at Ranchi," said Roy, a former secretary of the Union Club in Ranchi.

"When I had watched the West Indies at Eden I was a young man. But now diabetes has affected my right eye. I can't decide whether the view was better from the Eden gallery or from here," he said sitting at the top most gallery of the North Stand, which was on the sixth level of the stadium building.

His memories, however, were not blurred. "Being here today, I can almost visualise Imran Khan running up to bowl, something that I had experienced at the Keenan, which is a much smaller ground."

Roy's wish is that the stadium and the gym and indoor facilities help produce some more international stars. "Remember, now all these amenities are available when Dhoni's, the Indian skipper, is going to out to bat. But when Dhoni started his journey, all this was not here. Those who get to use these facilities should make use of them," smiled Roy.

Ranchi, of course, has not only bathed in the glory of India's thumping victory but the wait has already begun for their next tryst with international cricketers.

"I will not miss a single match here. For now, the wait is for the two matches the Kolkata Knight Riders would play here in May," gushed Reeti while leaving the stadium after cheering for Dhoni one last time at the presentation ceremony.

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