Love it or hate it, this summer one could not escape following the IPL. It was on the sports and news channels for most of April and May. Most cricket lovers flocked to the stadium to cheer their favourite teams. Movie theatres were given a by-pass for the cricket grounds. After all, there was a better chance to see the film stars live and larger than life in the grounds rather than in the cinema halls. Shahrukh Khan, Priety Zinta, and Shilpa Shetty were the stars attracting the largest crowds.
Many fans were in a dilemma: should they cheer their ‘home’ team or follow the greats like Tendulkar. In my case the confusion was worse: key players of the Deccan Chargers team of previous seasons were now playing for Mumbai Indians. This year, all holiday plans were centered on the fourth IPL season as seven matches were being played inHyderabad. Going by the crowds it seemed as if going to a live cricket match was far better entertainment than going for a holiday. Women, children, even grandparents, the who’s who of society, actors and celebrities all made a bee-line to the Uppal area where the stadium is located. Never mind the boulders in the parking lot, the dusty tracks leading to the stadium and the long walks from cars and bikes to the stadium, the die-hard fans were willing to brave anything to see and be seen at the matches!
Deccan Chargers is the team representing Hyderabad city in the Indian Premier League and the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium is the team’s home ground. Since most of the Indian Premier League games were played in day and night format, the stadium had flood lights installed. Bulls ring the outside of the stadium and the grounds and inside of the stadium were also very well maintained, making it a much sought after destination.
Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium (formerly known as Visakha International Stadium) is the principal cricket stadium in Hyderabad and is the home ground of the Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA). It has a capacity of 40,000 spectators presently and extends across 16 acres of land. The previous capacity was 55,000; however it has been reduced to 40,000 for the Indian Premier League matches. The jinx about this stadium was that the home team, whether it was TeamIndiaor Deccan Chargers had never won a match here. That did not prevent people coming in large numbers. At last when Deccan chargers defeated Royal Challengers,Bangalorethis season, fans went into a wild celebration. That we lost the other 6 matches on home ground hardly seemed to matter!
A carnival-like atmosphere was present at each and every match. From witty placards to blonde wigs sported by Malinga look-alikes,Hyderabadwitnessed it all! Sehwag of Delhi Daredevils, Sachin of Mumbai Indians and Ganguly of Pune Warriors were greeted by thunderous roars when they walked into the grounds. The crowds were really sporting and cheered runs made by the opposing teams as well. Sachin had a fantastic birthday celebration planned for him here, but Satya Sai Baba’s demise on the same day toned down the celebration.
From the Rs 300 seats to the Rs 15,000 enclosures and corporate boxes, each and every seat was occupied by cricket enthusiasts. Frankies, Domino Pizza, Soft drink and pop-corn sellers made a fast buck. So did vendors selling water bottles, caps and flags. Other cities seemed to have empty seats in the stadium but not Hyderabad. With such enthusiasm in Hyderabad, IPL matches are sure to be well-attended whenever they are held in our city!