Ahmedabad, November 19
The Metro train to Motera, packed to its nooks and crannies, is a babel of different languages and accents, but fans of cricket are united by the cry in Hindi: ‘Jeetega bhai jeetaga, India jeetaga.’ They’re also united by chants of ‘Vande Mataram’ — only the first two words of the national song, to be honest — and ‘Jai Shree Ram’; there’s also the inevitable ‘Modi hai to mumkin hai’.
Most of the sloganeering is made in the spirit of fun, not with real feeling or fervour. In fact, many of the travellers to the cricket ground speak English with British or American accents and have given up the Indian passport and sworn allegiance to the Queen or King, or the US flag.
Two men with tricolour turbans are the cynosure of all eyes — they’re the father-son duo Narender Singh and Gurmer Singh, pharmacists from Nottingham. People queue up to get photographed with them, and the Singhs oblige with joy. They’ve spent a bit of money for the last few matches — Rs 1.80 lakh for the tickets to the semifinals and final — and they say it’s been worth it as the experience has been “just incredible”.
“My father moved from the newly-created Pakistan to near Amritsar in 1947, and the same year he came to England,” said the UK-born Narender, who is in his 60s. His dad was practically illiterate and had to labour hard to make a life for himself in the new country; he made sure his children got good education. “I became a pharmacist,” said Narender. His father is no more, but the family is quite comfortable now — Narender travels to India every year and visits Punjab and loves to travel to the hills. The Singhs are certain that India would win the big trophy.
This certainty runs through the train, and becomes stronger as the bogies fill up impossibly by the time it reaches Motera. The Narendra Modi Stadium is awash in blue, in Indian colours, with ‘Kohli’ emblazoned on the back of most shirts, followed by ‘Rohit’; even a stray ‘Dhoni’ is spotted.
People have tales of how they’ve acquired their tickets. A local businessman, Jitesh, bought one for Rs 22,500 just three days ago; Bharat, a student, acquired his for Rs 3,500 a couple of months ago. “When they went up for sale,” he says happily. Auto driver Pawan Kumar relates how he bought 15 tickets for Rs 1,500 each and sold them for up to Rs 7,000 each — he doesn’t regret that he didn’t wait until India reached the final. “I’m happy with what I’ve made, zyada hajam bhi nahin hota,” he said.
Friends Venkatesh and Rishikesh have one ticket between them, but they’re determined to make sure both get in. “See, we know that people are asking for Rs 40,000 for a ticket,” says Venkatesh. “But I’m hopeful that no one would be willing to pay so much.” What’s the highest they’d be willing to pay? “We have Rs 10,000, and that’s the most we’re going to pay.” Sorry lads, Rs 10,000 isn’t likely to take you too far today — certainly not into the stadium.
The stadium fills up steadily, mostly with well-heeled and extremely well-fed types — no surprise, considering the prices of the tickets, the tariffs at the hotels, the airfares. This class, successful in life and full of confidence, brims with certitude — the certainty that the big trophy would be India’s, in the hands of Rohit Sharma tonight.
“Rohit Sharma? Who is he? I haven’t heard the name,” says Harshaben, and Pritiben nods. We’ve spotted the two doing various chores at the ground over three days — dusting the seats for the spectators, cleaning the media toilets, picking up used dishes from tables. They’ve heard of Sachin (Tendulkar) and Sourav (Ganguly), however. They’re amazed when they learn people are willing to pay over Rs 10,000 for one ticket. “I earn Rs 12,000 per month,” says Pritiben. “With Rs 10,000, I could buy rations for over two months!” But she’s a philosopher. “We’re working hard, and God will give us the fruit of our labour,” she says. Indeed.
Ahmedabad: The unlikeliest of incidents happened today in the 14th over of India’s innings — at a venue crawling with cops, commandos, fire department personnel, National Disaster Response Force officers, ICC officials — a pitch invader managed to break the security cordon! Even more unlikely — in the middle of a highly charged nationalistic crowd which would not be anti-Israel, he managed to raise a voice for Palestinians. He rushed in to Virat Kohli and managed to hug him. His mouth was covered with a mask with Palestinian colours and his shirtfront had the slogan “Stop bombing Palestine”. TNS
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