India Cricket 
Why I Left The India-Australia Cricket Final At Ahmedabad Early

GAYATRI SRIVASTAVA/ An Awaaz South Asia Special | 23/11/2023

Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

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Big is not always beautiful. This was my learning as I watched the mighty Indian cricket team go down to the resilient Australians at the massive Narendra Modi stadium in Ahmedabad on Sunday night.



But we'll come to that later. As someone who became a cricket fan at the age of nine, following the audacious victory of 'Kapil's Devils' in 1983, I had shared my concern to people close to me about the scheduling of ICC World Cup 2023. About holding the finals in Ahmedabad and only the semis in Mumbai and Kolkata. About no matches being held in Mohali and so many in Dharmshala, a venue difficult and expensive to reach, even from Delhi. About a big cricketing centre like Delhi getting only one India match and that also against Afghanistan who I mistakenly believed to be a weak team (I loved the cricket they played this time and was happy to have been proved wrong about them:).



The cricket lover that I am, I travelled with my supportive husband to Hyderabad to watch Pak vs SL predicting that it would be a good match and it was! Four centuries, two each from both teams! It was cricket at its best and the Hyderabad crowd was evolved, cheering both sides and enjoying a good game. :)



It helped that tickets were freely available, unlike those for the India matches. The Rajiv Gandhi stadium was not upto the mark with unclean loos and uncomfortable seats. Given Hyderabad's image as a city with great infrastructure I was surprised. But entry and exit was well managed and the two oranges and two lipsticks (!) the stadium security took out from my handbag before entry were still with the lady constable after the match had ended. I got them back from her and we returned to Delhi in a rather pleasant mood:)



The experience at Ahmedabad was vastly different. After the rather tedious task of procuring a ticket for the finals ( with some help from a friend in Mumbai), I took an overpriced, late night flight from Delhi to Ahmedabad on Saturday night (November 19). This time I was travelling alone for many different reasons. 

The flight was delayed and once I landed at the Sardar Vallabhai Patel International Airport, I could guess why! There were so many private jets and chartered flights parked near the runway. The excitement was palpable. Cricket lovers (mainly Indians) were converging from all across for what everyone believed was history in the making. At both Delhi and Ahmedabad airports, there was warmth and camaraderie and endless conversations about Dhoni and Wankhede and Rohit, Virat and Shami. This was the mood until the next day when Virat Kohli was bowled out by Pat Cummins in the 29th over. The enthusiasm suddenly changed to indifference and indifference to disbelief. What then transpired on Sunday night is now well known.


Yes, the crowd in Ahmedabad was boorish and partisan with lots of jingoism, lots of noise. What the world could not hear were the terrible acoustics of the world's largest cricket stadium that amplified the decibel levels many times over. Sitting in the audience one could not understand a word of what the DJ/MC was saying. It was all garbled and sounded like gibberish.



And what the world could not see was the extremely chaotic entry into the stadium. It was sheer luck that no one got injured entering or leaving the stadium. There was a lot of pushing and shoving to enter the stadium, even with a valid ticket! The few foreign fans were appalled and naturally so. The seats at the world's largest cricket stadium are crammed with nearly 50 rows in each stand. So even from a stand at the lower level you don't have a good view of the game as one is quite far from the action. The stadium doesn't seem to be designed for viewing pleasure for the spectators sitting there. The number of seats is large , but the viewing pleasure at the stadium is limited



Keeping a lakh people well fed during a match requires a big effort, and on that front too the fans in the stadium were let down. One was prepared for the food to be expensive and yes, water was free but I failed to understand why there was only ONE, yes only one coffee/tea stall in my Enclosure A, catering to a thousand people. Was it to force people to buy soft drinks?



The “pure veg” food being sold in the stadium -- burgers, pizzas, bhel, samosas, masala corn, pop corn, ice cream and the like -- was mostly finished by about 8 pm. Keep in mind that fans had begun streaming into the stadium at around 11.30 am or so. I had left my hospitable relative's home at 10 am and was seated inside the stadium at 12.15 pm. At the start of the game the newly built toilets were clean and dry. As the match progressed, they got dirty and wet.



So once Travis Head hit his match winning century and the writing was on the wall, I like many others left my seat and started moving out. I was not sure how the crowds would react once India lost. And I was apprehensive about exiting the stadium with a lakh people! That's when the penny dropped about big not always being the most beautiful! The audience had already become restive and disappointed. People were there to see an Indian victory (including me!).



My personal situation was that I had to travel back alone to Gandhinagar in a cab (yes, cab was a privilege). So around 9 pm after applauding the match's sole centurion, with a phone on low battery (you could not carry power banks, justifiably) I moved out leaving an orange seat behind. I was finally seated in my taxi around 9.45 pm after many anxious phone calls. My friend was taking the metro back to her hotel and those queues were pretty long too, I was told. Mind you, people had travelled from far and wide to make it for the game. Some has even camped at the stadium overnight because hotels were so expensive and so hard to come by. So by 9-9.30 pm on Sunday night, the adrenalin rush had gone. and for most spectators it was more about finding their way back home from a stadium in the middle of nowhere than appreciating a fine game of cricket!



So yes, the crowd behaved badly. But it had a lot to do with the organisation of the event too. The fans paid a bomb at every step of match. Everything was super expensive but there was a sense that you were gonna be part of something historic, something memorable, something to cherish life long and that is what spurred us on.



The cutest fans I met were a father-son duo on the flight from Delhi to Ahmedabad. The father (in his early 40s) was recounting how his Dad had taken him for the 1996 India SL match at Ferozeshah Kotla. I remember that match too. :) I was studying then at Delhi's Lady Shri Ram college. I rounded up some college friends, we bought the cheapest tickets possible and cried ourselves hoarse during that match. Sachin scored a century but India ended up losing to SL eventually. Life had come full circle for this businessman from Delhi, now taking his 12-year- old son to watch a probable Kohli century. Alas it was not to be, but that bonhomie, that precious bond between the indulgent father and his loving son will be my everlasting memory of this edition of the World Cup!

Gayatri Srivastava is a media academic, author and podcaster

Rishika Sinha

2023-11-23 14:41:04

Great read, felt as if I was spending the day and watching the match. Well done for you to have braved the journey.

Yogeeta Sawhney

2023-11-23 15:32:24

Very well put….all true facts

Samidha Ashok Gupta

2023-11-23 17:37:36

Beautifully written 👌👏

Vineeta S.

2023-11-23 19:25:14

Your disappointment is palpable. It truly reflects the dejection experienced not only by the entire stadium but by the country at large.

Marisa Goel

2023-11-23 20:24:33

A well written narrative of a day gone wrong. Gayatri caught the pulse perfectly.

Jyotsna Prashad

2023-11-23 20:28:09

V well written article,so vividly described,one could picture the atmosphere and the eexcitement and also feel the disappointment! We hope the facilities in the stadium,the largest in the world,improve to 'world class'


2023-11-24 03:28:17

Thank you for sharing this. Having seen arrangements for matches and concerts outside india one woes the fact that we pay international prices for these events in india but the facilities are sub par. Hope they improve!


2023-11-24 06:48:56

Very Nicely Written...depicted all emotions appropriately...

Anju (Gupta) Chaudhary 1963 batch.

2023-11-24 10:38:23

An excellent,well put, honest experience. Such write ups should be shared more frequently. 👌


2023-11-24 16:33:46

Next time go watch argetina vs brazil football match ,u will find great fan there .btw this is not criticism ,it is just your hate for modi