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Anand Vasu - 18 November 2001
A foreigner at home!
It's not every day that you walk into a press box in India where Indians are in the minority! After a fairly stiff struggle to get the necessary accreditation passes, a surprising sight greeted one in the press box of the Wankhede Stadium. When the first ball of the day was bowled, just two Indian scribes looked on, even as almost a dozen English journalists watched Wasim Jaffer and Vinayak Mane get off to a flyer on a wicket that didn't do nearly enough for the bowlers. But then again, as the drama unfolded, Mumbaikars streamed in from all parts.
Small but noisy crowd
England captain Nasser Hussain said on the eve of the first tour game, "There must be some of the younger lads who find it a bit daunting with the sheer numbers of people around. Usually in county cricket we're playing in front of two people!" The Essex and England cricketer was in for a bit of a surprise. The usually cricket crazy Mumbai fans turned out in small numbers, dotting the expansive stands. Although it goes without saying that the Test matches will see packed houses, one expected more of a crowd even for the lung-opener. Just last year, when Mumbai defeated Tamil Nadu in the Ranji Trophy semi-final, they were cheered on by packed crowds. Now surely, a visiting international team should generate as much interest. Well, one can only say that despite being small in numbers, the crowd did cheer in one voice and make its presence felt.
Kerala hog the limelight ahead of opener!
When touring teams come to Mumbai, the first thing they are hit by is the number of maidans, or large groups of cricket fields all around the metropolis. Driving from the Santa Cruz Airport to the comfort of the luxurious Taj Mahal Hotel, the England team could not help but notice Shivaji Park, Cross Maidan, Oval Maidan and many smaller cricket grounds. But it was not just cricket that held the attention. The day before England's first game on Indian soil saw Kerala take on Goa in the final of the Santosh Trophy at Mumbai. For a moment, Mumbai departed from its number one sport and embraced soccer - ironically the number one sport in England! When one returned to the hotel after a day's work, scenes of chaos and unbridled joy ushered one in. 'Railway Hotel' which of course has nothing to do with the Railways, had a floor full of Kerala footballers celebrating their 3-2 win in India's premier soccer tournament! Expecting an excess of cricket, it was a pleasant diversion to be part of the celebrations of the Kerala football team!
In the absence of the sacred
Mumbai minus Sachin Tendulkar is like beer without fizz. Expectations of the team go down, fans do not feel the same thrill on seeing the ball sizzle across the turf to the fence. For some though, the absence of Tendulkar is the perfect opportunity to grab their fifteen minutes of fame. Vinod Ganpat Kambli, who once threatened to maintain a Bradmanesque Test batting average, is a perfect example. With his chunky jewelry, muscular build and casual outlook he makes the ideal candidate for pressmen and cricket enthusiasts alike. The Mumbai Cricket Association however, is less than happy with the southpaw. On a recent tour of Kenya, Kambli is said to have partied just a bit too long and too hard on a few occasions and incurred the wrath of the authorities. There was even talk of punishing Mumbai's second most favourite son. At the end of the day however, the arrival of the British bailed out Kambli. In the face of the 'enemy', the MCA decided to let bygones be bygones and fielded their strongest team.