Cricket Meri Jaan

Last night I went to an Indian Premier League cricket match and the experience was electrifying. 

Delhi is on fire. Literally. Smog and exhaust smoke combine with heavy street light to consume the free air above gridlock surrounding Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium ahead of the clash between Delhi Daredevils and Gujarat Lions. It feels like Grand Final Day in Melbourne but with the underlying fear riot police are going to arrive.

The stadium is fenced off all the way around and the 30-40,000 eager punters going to the game are made to lineup in a kilometres-long single file line around the outside to pass through the first of 5 sets of metal/explosive detectors. Bags, cameras, earbuds, water and even coins are among the exhaustive list of banned items at the game. They care a lot about what comes in and out of the stadium, and when I got in it made sense why.
Nobody in the world does the cricket like the Indians. Their passion and obsession is unparalleled worldwide. The tickets are quite expensive. More than a ticket to go to the Big Bash in Melbourne, which means the crowd at the game is only reflective of a certain income range.

The crowd shoot up out of their seats every time a new song begins playing. Everybody is dancing. Going ALL OUT. It was a lot of fun, given that if you dance sober at the cricket in Australia you’d get butchered. Once the outfield make their way towards the crowd, the crowd jolts and anything projectile is thrown skyward in elation. Of course, there is nothing heavy enough to make it across the steel fences to the ground in front, as even their currency (coins) are forbidden.

Batting first, Gujarat piled on 208 in a clinic of an innings. Around me I was the centre of at least 50 selfies. Indians care more about Aussie cricket than Aussies do, and being the only Aussie in sight everyone wanted to chat about David Warner or Steve Smith or Aaron Finch.

Hope seemed lost for the local side. But in an unabashed display of sheer defiance, Delhi Daredevils managed to chase 208 and claim a 7-wicket victory in only 17 overs, capping it off with an atmospheric chakka (six)!

In Australia, the too-serious types walk out on their teams when they’re losing. But in Delhi, given the narrow entry to the Stadium (it’s mind-boggling) fans spilled out once the team had less runs to score than balls in play. 5 overs before finish, RIGHT BEFORE mounting a mammoth comeback! Very peculiar behaviour, but made it all the sweeter for those fans who remained for the dramatic closure of the game.

“4” and “6” signs were shredded and thrown into the air, creating a stadium-wide DIY confetti shower, while punters danced the win away along with fans of the losing, visiting side. That’s passion and enjoyment right there.

At the IPL, enjoyment is more important than winning. And that is evident from start to finish. Beyond being the most exciting T20 I’ve attended, it was also the most fun. Afterwards, fans fought with opportunistic street vendors and police to funnel through the narrow exit for over an hour before plaguing motorists with floods of red and blue. The atmosphere out on the street was like ANZAC Day at the MCG in Melbourne every year… Except far far more insane.

If everybody had the IPL, I am convinced all of humankind could get along. Dil Dilli Hai!

Travel to learn.

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