Test cricket, apart from big centers like Bengaluru, Chennai, Mumbai, and Kolkata, doesn’t attract a lot of fans in India. But on Thursday, more than 45,000 people congregated at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Uppal to cheer for India in the first Test between India and England. It created a surreal atmosphere - so much so that Barmy Army, England’s official fan unit, had to tone themselves down a fair bit.
At the center of it were school students from all across the state - a masterstroke by the Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA) in order to avoid vacant stands. HCA had decided to let students of class VI to XII from all government-recognized schools in Telangana State witness the match for free. But the way they had gone about it helped fill the stands quickly.
Instead of putting this up for the last minute, HCA had started doing their bit a lot earlier. Decisions were proactively taken almost a month ago and schools were notified that students must wear the school uniform while attending the match. Complimentary lunch packets were provided to all attendees, further making this initiative wholesome.
While cricket fans have always been known to be passionate in this part of the world, the scene becomes even better when it comes to school students. Devoid of any tension of studying or completing homework, kids of different ages were excited seeing some of the biggest stars of the generation live in front of them. It worked that the likes of Shreyas Iyer, Shubman Gill, and Axar Patel were constantly egging them on - with the kids reciprocating with equal vigor.
There were enough ticketed fans in the crowd too. With the HCA introducing both daily and season passes, tickets were grabbed in a flash, with many fans struggling to get their hands on them. One of them was Pranav Nair, who traveled from Mumbai to witness the Test and claimed to have his money’s worth after Indian spinners ran riot on the first day itself.
However, the organization was not without its share of controversies. Many fans complained about useful things like sunglasses and even watches getting confiscated at the gate. A few Barmy Army fans had the unpleasant experience of their belongings like sunscreens thrown away at the gate.
But once they got in, it helped that there was good quality food available, with prices ranging between INR 25-100. “You don’t get this experience often. So many restrictions at the stadiums make the cricket-watching experience an inconvenient option in India, but this time, it was different. Food quality was really good and they didn’t charge exuberant charges either,” Pranav said.
In recent times, big matches have become heavily concentrated in Ahmedabad. While the BCCI officials still swear in the rotation policy, the reality is far from that. In such situations, the crowded Hyderabad stadium can be a hope for a changing time. Or at least one can hope so.
Ben Stokes: A phenom redefining Test excellence
Bastab K Parida
The life of an Australian fan in India
Diary of an Indian Fan - 2nd Edition
Diary of an Indian Fan - 1st Edition
Despite many hardships, cricket gives Sri Lanka a lease of life
Bastab K Parida
Deciphering the IPL fanbase
Padikkal’s ability to handle pressure from a young age is amazing: Irfan Sait
It will be a challenging Test summer for us: Tim Paine
There is no secret that I look up to Jadeja: Ashton Agar