I had been to an Indian Premier League cricket match recently and came away fascinated by the experience. Being a cricket aficionado, I have been to cricket grounds to watch Test matches in the past. I love the ebb and flow of the game in a Test match and watching it with similar cricket fans makes for a wholesome experience. The M. Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore is not the worst in terms of accessibility and basic facilities. It makes for a good viewing experience.
The IPL matches, on the other hand, are a whole different ball game. The crowd coming in to watch these matches is completely different – there are families, teenagers and youngsters in large numbers, all turning up to enjoy the spectacle. There is music, loud. Really, really loud. The huge speakers placed maybe about a 100 feet away from each other are facing the audience. God forbid your seats turn out to be bang in front of any of those! The music starts blaring every time there is a break in the play. Oh! the definition of a break in the play is called for here. Any time a batsman hits a four or a six or gets out or there is a no-ball or an appeal that is reviewed by the Third Umpire or… you get the picture. All the DJ needs is an excuse to start the music. To top that, you have the Public Announcements made in English and the local language. This goes with the ample displays of the scorecard on multiple screens around the stadium.
Thankfully, the music is not bad. Bollywood hits are churned out with a sprinkling of Kannada hit songs to please the local population too. The energy of the crowd is such that people are on their feet every time that a four or a six is hit. The T20 format is made for 4s and 6s and the razzmatazz that goes with the whole show. Sincere watchers of the game have no place in this ground. The crowd doesn’t really seem to care if the local team’s batsman gets out. The noise is just as loud as when an opposition player is dismissed. The whole impetus is on having a good time. And why not?
People stand in front of me as I yearn to look at the field placings. I tried to make sense of the bowling changes but it seems like the captains in this tournament are as carried away with all the noise as the audience itself is. There is a bowling change in almost every other over. Not many in the crowd know what the score is or even who the batsmen are. As long as there is music and there is a reason to shout, everyone is quite happy to do just that.
The whole ground is covered in the color of the home team. There are flags galore – it seems like there is a flag for anyone who wants to wield one. Sponsors hand out inflatable head gear that makes one look like a dunce or an angel depending on your perspective. Overs number 17 through 20 are lost because I can’t be bothered to stand and watch. People standing in front of me are more energetic and stand right through the last 4 overs of the innings. I satisfy myself with a view of the big screen that helpfully shows live action.
The match I attended was called off halfway through due to rain stopping play. The rain did not dampen the enthusiasm one bit though. Music continued to blare out of the speakers and sections of the crowd took to rain dancing – it is all about the fun and frolic! It is ironic to see this spectacle of men and women dancing in public at a cricket stadium at way past 11:30 p.m when pubs in the city have to close at 11:30 p.m. I wonder how the authorities deem their ability to provide security on match days to be more than their ability to provide for safety on regular days for the millions of citizens of Bengaluru. At the cricket stadium that night, not one amongst the thousands in the crowd was complaining though. The IPL has arrived and it is Indian in every way.