The ongoing Mumbai test match between India and England was a must-see for me on my sabbatical. Being in Mumbai over the next five days is going to help me kill several bucket list birds with one stone. I haven’t been to Mumbai in over a decade. That in itself was reason enough to warrant a stop. Also, I haven’t been to a cricket match at a ground not named the M A Chidambaram stadium in over 15 years. Also someone by the name of Sachin Tendulkar may have been playing his final test match in his hometown.
Here are some cricket-centric and not-so-cricket-centric thoughts at the end of an absorbing day 1 between India and England….
The Chatrapati Shivaji airport was the first of three or four really cool modern works of engineering I marveled at within minutes of landing. The domestic terminal was clean, organized and full of clear signage for food and transportation options. If I had to rant about something about the airport it would have to be at gunpoint and it would the enormous hoardings for some stupid Karan Johar show. Haven’t we seen enough of him already? How much more verbal masturbation of his friends in the industry are we supposed to be able to take? Anyways, the airport is awesome and I am glad I got to see it on a busy Friday morning.
My ride to the Wankhede took me on the Bandra-Worli Sea link. The bridge is imposing and stunning. The entire drive thru the bridge is full of gorgeous views and Mumbai sights and sounds. My cabbie told me that the bridge now shaves off a good half hour of a lot of drives in the city. It is a wonderful achievement of exceptional Indian engineering. I will not be surprised if it evolves into a massive tourist attraction in its own right like the bridges in San Francisco and New York City.
I got to the longish lines outside Wankhede close to start of play and hoped and prayed for a Sachin special on his home turf. However, it was not to be. Sachin was out clean bowled to the best delivery bowled all day for a measly 8 and a Friday crowd that chanted ‘Ganpati Bappa Moriyaaa‘ on Sachin’s entry, was to be disappointed. The rest of the dismissals were fairly tame on a pitch that I still don’t have a very good read on. Yes, some deliveries turned and bounced a bit too much for a first day pitch but Cheteshwar Pujara also played some gorgeous shots off the front foot and looked untroubled and unhurried all day.
Speaking of Che Pujara,
I really really did not want to root for Cheteshwar Pujara. He is a great story but rooting for the guy who took over Rahul Dravid’s spot in the test line up was equal to adultery for me. After all, if Pujara failed or was mediocre, it would only make my impression of Dravid even better and bigger. Kinda like how Ronald Reagan looks awesomer with each passing year because of the Bush II years. My life would be happier and my worship of Dravid would go better if Mr. Pujara came a cropper. So far I have had to eat some humble Mithai for my warped thinking. It was a privilege to watch his masterclass today. He seemed to be batting on a different pitch against different bowlers. He was fluent and composed all day and made a chanceless unbeaten hundred. While Ashwin made some handy runs towards the end of the day comforting everyone that the pitch isn’t quite the dustbowl predicted, Pujara’s innings will not be forgotten by me for a long time to come.
Here is an 1-minute video of him reaching his hundred and the ovation that followed – [youtube=http://youtu.be/Vnb36M3mcZs]
My two most hilarious moments of the day were at lunch and whenever Monty Panesar fielded in the deep just in front of where I sat. Lunch was hilarious because the Mumbai Cricket Association made it so. The vegetarian options in the portion of the stadium I was at were Domino’s ‘Pizza’, Samosa and bags of chips. Pizza is in quotes because just because something looks like a Pizza and is called a pizza does not mean it tastes like pizza. This melty concoction of crust, cheese, capsicum and corn was definitely not what constitutes pizza:). Monty Panesar for the uninitiated is a Sikh of Indian origin who plays for England. What I saw at the stadium today may be happening at every ground he plays in but it was a first for me. Fans were so amused by his name and ethnicty that a million ‘Full Monty’, ‘Half Monty’ and Chicken Tikka utterances were heard anytime and everytime Monty made some sort of noise. It was hilarious to me that the fans tried this all day and Monty did not react to it ever. It certainly doesn’t seem to have any effect on him.
I will be spending my evenings checking out the wonderful bustling city and visiting hot spots recommended by veteran Mumbaikars. But in the meantime, I am hoping to witness a truly special test match of cricket. After day one, the scene is set quite perfectly. Test matches are books with up to 15 chapters and the first three today were memorable and enjoyable and topsy-turvy. I cannot wait for play to start tomorrow. There’s many twists and turns left in this game and Mr. Tendulkar may still play a role…. But for one day, Pujara was god and Wankhede was WankheChe!