Twenty20 excitement at Brabourne stadium

By Qaiser Mohammad Ali, IANS

Mumbai : Huge speakers blaring foot-tapping music, youngsters dressed in their best outfits, cheerleaders, innumerable flag-waving people and giant video screens added to the unprecedented excitement at the Brabourne Stadium here, the venue of the first Twenty20 International on Indian soil Saturday.

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The ‘Saturday Evening Fever’ was at its peak at the Brabourne Stadium much before the scheduled start of the India-Australia match after dusk. The organisers tried to build the excitement since morning with uninterrupted music.

The youthful air was possibly new to the stadium was built in 1937.

That was a time when no one had even dreamt of Twenty20 slam-bang version. Not many members of the Cricket Club of India (CCI), which owns the stadium, would have been born in the 1930s when Lord Brabourne, governor of Bombay during the British Raj, constructed the stadium on reclaimed sea land.

The reality, however, is that cricket has undergone a sea change and in the 70 years it has been commercialised like never before. And the latest stop is the Twenty20 version at which India are the world champions – and which Robin Uthappa describes as “picnic kind of thing”.

The excitement at the Brabourne was such that two hours before the start of the match, about half of the stadium was full.

The Biyani brothers, who arrived well over two hours before the match started, were immediately drowned in the music and the atmosphere.

“This is very exciting. The time a Twenty20 matches takes is short, there are huge hits and there is music and cheerleaders. What else you want?” asked Aditya Biyani.

Sitting next to him, Rajeev nodded in agreement. “I have watched one-day internationals at this ground before, but this is the best version,” he told IANS.

Rajeev also wanted to know how the pitch would behave. “But when you are only concerned with fours and sixes it does not matter,” chipped in Aditya.

The anticipation for the match was palpable since early morning when food stalls outside the playing arena, but within stadium premises on the famous Marine Drive, were neatly arranged.

Even the people working at shops surrounding the Brabourne Stadium were clearly bitten by the Twenty20 bug. The proprietor of a medical shop was heard telling his employees the difference in the capacity of the Brabourne Stadium and the Wankhede Stadium nearby.

But the irony of it all could not be ignored. The match brought together the traditional with the contemporary. The Brabourne Stadium, said to be the first venue in the world built specifically for cricket, amalgamated with the hit-and-run variety of the game. While the old timers disapproved of it, the youth embraced it.

The bottom line is that cricket is headed towards the point of no return – that is the good, old charm of Test cricket will soon be completely taken over.

A hint of that was seen when the song, “Hum hain naye, andaaz hai purana…” from popular film “Chak De! India” was played. Will those who tapped their feet on this song like to watch Test cricket with the same zeal? Unlikely.

“It looks like soon countries will play an entire series of Twenty20 matches,” quipped Gautam Gambhir Friday night as he munched his food.

But, for now, the International Cricket Council has put a ceiling on a maximum of seven Twenty20 Internationals for a country, excluding the World Championships.