Thursday, April 10, 2008

Cricket at MCG - An awesome experience

Adrenalin flows rapidly; heightened curiosity reaches its crescendo as I hear the rapturous roar of thousands of people. Excitement engulfs me and make my strides go longer, increasing in its pace. Sights of verdant expansive lawns with animated protagonists in colorful attire under bright luminance of metal halide lamps makes me transfixed until a wave of people who are equally excited, push and jostle me to go ahead. Journey from that point until my reserved seat often invites a justified annoyance from those disciplined spectators who have taken efforts to arrive early. ‘sorry’ ‘excuse me’ are profusely offered as I trample their feet while adjusting my gait – whose position is precarious with head at 90degrees from torso. Be it cricket match at Wankhede in Mumbai, or Soccer at Sheikh Zayed in Abu Dhabi, a journey from the main gate of the stadium to the reserved seat is same at all the sporting venues

MCG at Melbourne was no exception to this phenomenon but it added extra fervor with its grandeur architectural design that houses 100,000 people. Footprint of the stadium is not as large as Eden Garden but its four tier viewing galleries are designed in such way that spectators all round are in striking visible range to witness what goes on the field. Stadium has very distinguished neighbors, Rod Laver Australian Open tennis, Olympic park. The whole arena looks like a sports city and whats more, its part of the downtown city. MCG is not just cricket but also a place for Australian Football League, International Rules and the crowd at the final of these two events surpasses the crowd on Boxing Day Cricket.

For me, Australia arrived through Doordarshan beaming Channel 9 telecasts of cricket matches. SCG and MCG became familiar names as Brebourne and Chepouk. My early visible memories of MCG were when India won Benson and Hedges World Championship beating Pakistan with Ravi Shastri taking away Audi. Only then, I realized that there was a car company by that name. Later, in 1992, Imran Khan lifted the World cup at the same venue.

I was part of 40K plus crowd when India took on Australia in triangular one-day series alongwith Sri Lanka. Cricket is always fascinating in Australia, South Africa and England where pitches are livelier for bounce and swing. Scoring 30 plus runs on these pitches would be equivalent to scoring 100 plus on subcontinent dusty pitches where ball will not come above the knee level. Watching Bret Lee bowling at Sachin made my Japanese friend admit that Cricket is not as easy as it looks on TV. After seeing the red cherry fly past the noses of batsman, I realized my folly of criticizing Indian batsman from cozy living room sipping glass of beer. At 160Kms /hr speed swinging ball with high bounce from Nathan Bracken was traceable only when one looked at the giant screen above the stadium.

At MCG, I learnt how Aussies devises ways to make a game popular, spectators entertained and imbibe sports at the young minds. During lunchtime, they get bunch of young kids and start playing informal cricket all over the turf in different groups. For them being in front such a large crowd and playing with gay abundance must be true mental toughness baptism for preparing for big event in later life. For any sports lover, a trip to Melbourne would not be complete without seeing MCG. Even for no sports lover, awesome fiery experience of watching any sports event at MCG would make him convert to a sports lover.

I was fortunate to watch Ishant Sharma with his lean frame, pandawa style long flowing hair demolishing top order Australian batting and then Sachin and Rohit Sharma resolutely surpassing the total to hoist India’s unexpected win . Boisterous, colorful, frenzied Indian support wrapped up in bright saffron, green. White tri-colors made me feel more Indian than I ever felt in India. I could not have imagined this script as I brushed past Venkatesh Prasad in the morning. As a bowling coach, He too must have been pleased with Indian bowlers making Aussie batsman struggling

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