India vs Australia: The joy of watching Test cricket live from the stands



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Watching a Test match on a big television screen from the comforts of your living room is akin to enjoying footage of people soaking themselves up on the beach. Blessed are those who have had the chance to witness a five-day game live in all its glory. And when I say “glory”, it just doesn`t limit to an exciting contest between the bat and the ball. It also includes the mood creators, the ones who are responsible for making the atmosphere “electric” — the spectators, of course.

One may say that watching a game of cricket is an exercise in itself. You need to keep a tab on who has scored how many runs or who has taken how many wickets, which team is on the top during a certain phase of the game et al. The advances in the coverage of modern day game have enabled us to not fret about remembering the myriad stats. A click of the mouse can fetch you the number of balls a batsman has faced, the number of overs a bowler has bowled or even the time a batsman has spent at the crease. So, this leaves a fan free from making any extra effort to remember everything about the game. You’re just left to enjoy a crisp cover drive or a sudden charge down the wicket which sends the ball high into the orbit above the bowler’s head and into the stand. Or a toe-crushing yorker that leaves the batsman wondering how he might have earned such scorn from the bowler.

Still, cricket has more reasons to be watched live apart from its usual offerings.

Those who have watched a Test match or any other game from the stands will know of the various joys that one can only experience while actually being `there`. Let`s understand the concept citing the example of the fourth and final Test between India and Australia played at Feroz Shah Kotla. When Glenn Maxwell was thrown the ball as the final session of the second day`s play was unfolding, a loud cheer went up in the stands (North stand, lower level to be precise). And this isn`t because Maxwell is a top-rated bowler. In fact, most of the ‘modern’ cricket fans must have noticed him after an intense bidding war that saw him become the latest million-dollar baby of IPL.

Maxwell was fielding at third man and the crowd behind him was cheering his every move. So, when captain Shane Watson decided that it was time he used his service as a bowler, the crowd acknowledged it with an audible cheer and applause. As luck would have it, the 24-year-old struck off his first over and the crowd went quiet. It was Ravindra Jadeja who became his victim. Jadeja had just begun entertaining the crowd that had gone into a collective mourning post the dismissal of Sachin Tendulkar. However, as soon as the tweaker made his way back after completing a successful over to his fielding position, the crowd there gave him an even louder reception. It was a pleasant surprise. You would expect the Indian supporters to have a go after him but the case was exactly opposite. It was as if they were not only congratulating him for the dismissal but also telling him, “We told you so, mate”.

When appreciation comes from the opposition supporters, it must be a very special feeling. Maybe I am wrong, but when the day`s proceedings were called off and the players made their way back to the dressing room, Maxwell after signing a few autographs turned to his right and waved at the particular stand that made him feel like a superstar. Bet all you who were glued to their TV screen didn`t know that! Moments like these make a game memorable. However, nothing was all hunky dory down there. The Delhi crowd is one feisty bunch. During the 51st over of the Indian innings, MS Dhoni ran straight down the pitch on his way to a couple off James Pattinson. David Warner wasn`t impressed and gave him a piece of his mind. Tempers flared and Watson was called in by the on-field umpires to rein in his “pocket dynamo”. Everything was settled but it seemed the crowd disliked what had just unfolded in the middle. Result — loud chants of “loser, loser” filled the air. The hostility was palpable. And dare I say — this writer enjoyed every bit of it!

In a distant future if I’m asked to recall the pleasantest of memory while watching a Test match, my answer will be Tendulkar`s five boundaries and Maxwell waving towards the North stand before leaving for the dressing room— both from the Kotla Test of 2013. That`s how I’ll remember my debut in the stands.