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India-Pak encounter: From the stands

By Raj
September 25 2004

The only match in the ICC Champions Trophy that generated sellout crowds and spirited, enthusiastic audiences was the India-Pakistan encounter. A fan reports on the goings-on from Edgbaston stadium. The last game between India and Pakistan that I had the privilege to witness in person was the '99 World Cup match between the great rivals at Old Trafford. That day, without tickets in hand, we had travelled to the ground on the day of the match -- never a doubt in our minds that we would meet our objective of entering the stadium to see our beloved team in action.

On this occasion, unlike the previous one, we had arrived at Edgbaston Cricket ground with tickets at 9.30 am sharp, everything going to plan. I could sense a multitude of emotions around the ground. My brother-in-law had purchased yet another flag just a couple of yards from the entrance to the ground, only to have the bamboo stick removed by one of the security guards. The young guard had quite a collection, and I could not help but be amused. After that, yet another security check was carried out as we watched our bags being scanned for any items deemed illegal. Apparently, all cans were prohibited: something that the guidelines we had received conveniently failed to mention. We watched in horror as eight cans of Pepsi were taken away and concealed underneath the table! It seemed a strange confiscation, given that potentially more dangerous glass bottles of beer were being sold in the ground.

We walked around the stadium, winding our way around to block 29 of the Eric Hollies stand. Edgbaston isn’t a particularly large ground, and has a nice compact feel to it. We had just located our seats on the front row when, to our delight, we saw a number of Indian players coming in to warm up just 20 yards from where we were seated!

Catching, bowling and batting practice were soon in full swing, with Sourav Ganguly particularly receptive to the attention from the Indian fans. One could sense that he was enjoying the occasion almost as much as us! Sourav, Mohammad Kaif and Virender Sehwag were the three members of the team that acknowledged us, and a number of us fans took the opportunity to take photographs as a momento of the occasion. Rahul Dravid, in stark comparison, seemed very focussed, oblivious to the cheers and warming up with a few nice looking drives to the side netting. Was Dravid confirming just why he is known as a model professional? Irfan Pathan was hitting a single stump with amazing regularity, and Kaif held his pose for just an extra couple of seconds for the cameras (see picture). All this gave an interesting insight into how the players behaved before a match.

The ground started to fill up, and it soon became apparent that at least 70% of the spectators were India supporters. The Bharat Army made their entrance to the tune of the dhol, and got everyone moving. The atmosphere grew into a crescendo of whistles, horns and classic chants (some of which cannot be repeated here)!

The day was full of memorable moments. Pathan was simply awesome, and looked like taking a wicket every other ball. Aggy’s huge six was nearly caught by someone seated just a few seats away from us! The steward was forced to collect and return the ball, with the nearest fielder Shoaib perhaps a little threatened by the friendly banter of some of the Indian fans. Rahul Dravid showed yet again why he is considered our ‘Mr. Reliable’ , playing an important role in giving India a respectable score for the bowlers to defend. All the bowlers worked hard on the day, but in truth, Pathan looked to be our only real threat.

India/Pakistan games have always been memorable occasions, and this was no different. Aside from the result, it was a great day out, thoroughly enjoyed by most supporters of good cricket. Boy, was my throat sore by the end of the day!

Okay, so that’s two won one lost, that’s not too bad now is it? Bring on the Aussies!

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