A Day at the Stadium – the Female Perspective
By Rohinee Rajagopalan Iyer
I grew up listening to the phrase ‘Cricket matches are best viewed from home’, and there were a litany of reasons for me believing in that dictum whole-heartedly.
As a result, the thought of going and watching a match live from the stadium never occurred to me. To me, the players always seemed like they were playing in a well-known, yet parallel universe; and I always viewed the revelry of the fans gambolling and jumping about in the stadium with a sense of detachment.
It wasn’t until the fourth season of the Indian Premier League that I got a chance to watch a cricket match, live from the stadium. As unplanned and impromptu as it was, it was also a reality check. Especially for a girl, going to watch an IPL match – a not-so-important IPL match – between Pune Warriors India and the then Deccan Chargers at the DY Patil Stadium, Nerul, Navi Mumbai. There was, after all, no telling how difficult the experience would be, and whether I’d enjoy it at all. As it turned out, though, I needn’t have worried; it was a reality check alright, but the most wonderful reality check I’ve ever experienced.
Of course, it wasn’t all fun and frolic. When you watch a cricket match on the television, there’s not much hardship involved; barring time co-ordination, all the individual needs to do is switch on the TV and then plonk herself down before the TV screen like the proverbial couch potato, not shifting from that spot till the match is wrapped up. On the other hand, trying to co-ordinate the whole schedule for going and watching the match in the stadium involves strategising and tactical manoeuvring right from reaching the stadium on time to getting inside it after the gates open. It’s heady, intoxicating, excruciating and totally incomparable.
To say that the atmosphere once I got into the stadium was electrifying would be an understatement. Everywhere that I looked, exuberance and excitement abounded, even before the match actually started. Flags waved and the spectators chanted their favourites’ names, the crescendo of the buzz amplified with each passing minute.
Granted, once the match started, I wasn’t able to clearly view what was transpiring on the pitch; I couldn’t even identify any of the players without looking up at the giant TV screens. But yelling rambunctiously along with the thousand others more than compensated for all of these deficiencies. At that moment, wearing the wonky devil-shaped hair-bands, waving the Pune Warriors India flag and waiting for the cameras to catch us doing the verbal roll-call for our fellow-city team seemed like the ultimate achievement. Adrenaline flowed, possibly even enhanced by the enthusiasm of all those around me, and showed no signs of receding. One pair of eyes became insufficient and two hands weren’t enough to clap. I have never lived in the moment as fully as I did then.
After all these years of watching people with painted faces and strange costumes, dressing maniacally before the cameras, I finally understood the sense of euphoria that brought these manifestations before the world. And where once I had naively believed that such demonstrations were embarrassing, a newfound sense of clarity dawned upon me - that nothing in the world could, or should, embarrass a true fan. All of us live in the moment during a match, and the way we celebrate or physically present ourselves only displays the extent of our passion for the game and the players. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all.
Once the match ended and the presentation ceremony began, the crowd began clearing out and silences became even more prolonged. The memories however still linger and will never be forgotten. As far as first-time experiences go, watching a match as a stadium spectator was definitely a smashing hit and one that I want to repeat whenever I get the opportunity. TV screens do indeed bring a different clarity to the match proceedings over by over, but the stadium experience is one that overwhelms; not just the mind, but also the soul of every cricket fan.