I’d thought the 15th May 2011 experience at the stadium with my office colleagues could possibly be my last LIVE match for a long time to come, when my church friend Binoy messaged me on 19th May and asked if I could be free to watch the game the next day. At that time, I didn’t even know who the Mumbai Indians were going to play. His sister Benzy had some free tickets and I was invited. There was no way that I was going to let go off this opportunity. 

This time, we were at the Garware Stand, Gate No. 2. This time, however, it would be all church friends together. We reached the game about a couple of overs late because of some miscommunication. We hadn’t missed much of the action though. Just as we entered, Sachin Tendulkar was taking a catch to send Pune Warriors’ Jesse Ryder back to the dug-out. 

Before we could even settle down, PWI had lost four. One of them being Tim Paine, seen here getting his bails knocked off by Munaf Patel. I consider this one a priceless shot, and to think that it was purely by chance. I’d thought the batsman was given out caught behind! But a careful look at the picture and you’d see that the bail is disturbed. 

Soon, skipper Yuvraj Singh was making his way back for a duck. Amidst the Mumbai Indians’ flags fluttering, he walked back dejectedly to the dug-out, seeing a defeat within the first six overs of the game. The bunch who’d got the free tickets, meanwhile, feared that the game might be over too soon for our liking.

The Pune dug-out wasn’t too far away from where we sat. And we were of course, the privileged few to have high-end tickets free to ourselves!

Robin Uthappa tried to resurrect the Pune inning, but found little support at the other end, as edges flew often from the bat, most of them, luckily in no man’s land.

Lasith Malinga could easily be the second most popular cricketer in Mumbai Indians. And with him standing at long-off, shouts of ‘Maa-lin-ga Maa-lin-ga’ echoed from our stands. When you’re in the crowd, you could say the most ridiculous things, like when I shouted something to the effect of – “Malinga, apna baal dikha na!” (Malinga, show us your hair!). And very soon, he was removing his hat. Of course, only to wipe the sweat I believe. 

Soon, Malinga was bowling and that slinging action just cannot be missed – no matter which part of the stand you are in!

When you’re this close to the ground and dug-out, you’re never too far away from the TV guys either. Shibani Dandekar was seen here interviewing Pune’s Fergusson. 

It’s fun to watch a player’s antics at the ground, something that you could miss while watching on TV. Malinga was seen adjusting his socks, even as the bowler was beginning his run-up. “Idhar catch aayega toh majaa aayega!” (Would be fun if they hit one here)

Strategic Time-out is one of the most irritating things while on TV, but to people at the stadium, it’s time to grab a bite, see what the players do etc. Pune didn’t have much to discuss with them tottering with more than half of their side back in the hut. Wonder what Geoff Marsh and Yuvi told the batsmen in the middle.

And for people like Binoy, Sajan and me, it was time to carry some memories home to show off. For me, this was coming here on my blog! The three of us look more tired than the players on the field though.

Pune soon folded out for 118. Time for interviews. Andrew Symonds with Brad Hodge. Shibani and Sameer Kochar (who looked bigger than he does on TV) seen here awaiting their turn.

And when you’re in a stand that’s on the higher side, you could bump into a few celebrities too like Sachin Khedekar, popular Marathi actor. Music Director Anu Malik also was around, but too quick for me to click a snap.

Wankhede looks awesome under floodlights. And they were just taking effect, slowly.

Mumbai lost opener Franklin early, but chasing 118 was never going to be difficult. Uthappa fielding at long-on seemed quite lonely.

Sachin and Rayudu were playing at a pace that was below-par for a T20 game, but on par for the current match. Binoy wanted the match to go to the last ball. Seemed highly unlikely. 

I seemed to be the only guy in that stand who knew Tommo’s real name – Alfonso Thomas. A ball before this snap, Tommo jumped high to save a certain six to restrict Rayudu to just one. Soon, Sachin went after the bowler, but the ball was safe in Tommo’s lap!

Sachin departed. In walked Rohit Sharma. Mumbai Indians’ batsmen hadn’t had much of a hit in the middle with Sachin and Rayudu doing most of the work in the previous games. Perfect time for Rohit to get some batting practice. 

Binoy desperately wanted a photograph with Sachin. He got his moment! 

Some tight bowling and some average batting by Mumbai meant that the game could well go to the last over. We never thought we would be seeing the flood-lights taking full-effect like it did.

The match was getting too close for my liking. My mom had already asked me the day before – “Are you going there to defeat Mumbai? Last time, you did so!”

With Symonds coming out to bat for the first time in the game, and Rohit Sharma playing it easy, this game would go to the final over!

Binoy got his second wish fulfilled. The match going to the last ball.

Murali Karthik, who had bowled a good over till that point, pitched his last one slightly short and outside the off, and Rohit quickly pounced on it and cleared it over the sweeper-cover boundary for MI’s first six, thus handing his team a seven-wicket win.

MI came out victorious in the first-ever state derby of IPL. I have a good feeling about this rivalry. Could well turn out to be a ‘match to watch out for’ in the future. As for me, I had witnessed another first at Wankhede!

Another perk that came with the free ticket, apart from some yummy free food, was that we were pretty close to the dressing room. And two of my favourite former South African players were within shouting distance here – Shaun Pollock and Jonty Rhodes. (So much so that my nephew is named after the latter)

The presentation ceremony was about to start, but to those close to the dressing room, that hardly mattered. We were calling out to any and every player. And Malinga obliged. Unfortunately, as Malinga chose and pick, I wasn’t the fortunate enough to get his autograph.

For some strange reason, I had a feeling, I could get Robin Uthappa’s attention. He was down in the ground getting his ‘Maximum Sixes Award’. On his way back, we had our moment when Robin responded with a smile when we shouted out ‘Praise the Lord, Robbie!’ Soon, he was kind enough to take the Mumbai Indians flag and sign on it. My day was made!

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It was one of those ‘ideas’ that you just blurt out at the spur of the moment. So, as I was on a walk with my office friends- all of us still discussing the World Cup victory, sudden thought, which was perhaps a little too loud – “Why don’t we go for a game?” It didn’t take too long for the bunch to come back at their desk and book IPL tickets for the Mumbai Indians – Kochi Tuskers Kerala game.

Come 15th May 2011, we were on our way to the famous Wankhede Stadium, which a couple of weeks back had witnessed one of the most historic moments in Indian cricket. For us, we knew the Mumbai Indians was walking home easily with their easy wins in their first two matches, and Kochi’s below-par show in their first two. Before I bore you to death with this boring textual experience of the match, let these few pictures tell the tale.
Not surprisingly, the line to gate no. 4 was long, what with the six of us reaching past 7, yet well before the game.

I’ve never seen Wankhede in such close proximity. And after renovation, I am told that it had started looking even more gorgeous.

Did someone say IPL was losing out because of its proximity to the World Cup? Wankhede had other stories. And as we made past the 3-4 layers of security, to add a cliché, the decibels sure gave testimony to the excitement in the air.

What really got us going was the view we were going to get. At the second ‘cheapest’ available seats, this was possibly the best seats available. 

The ‘screaming’ was purely for the excitement of the seats that we got, which I must add, was purely by chance. I don’t think we shouted any louder during the game. Few empty seats in the stand adjacent were soon going to be filled to capacity. What surprised me was the availability of MI flags on every seat.

Kochi, after winning the toss, asked Mumbai to bat. The decibels went a lot of notches higher when Sachin Tendulkar and Davy Jacobs walked out to the middle. For three of us in the group, we were seeing the legend for the first-ever time in person.

There’s no better sight in world cricket than a Tendulkar straight-drive and when he obliged in the very first over as he drove RP Singh past mid-off. The few Rupees that we had spent were now worth it. Soon though, there was a close shout for LBW. “Not out. Not out!” I declared. Umpire agreed. Seemed we both were wrong. I, of course, didn’t know about this till after the game.
As the game progressed, the stadium was in full capacity, cheering each of Sachin’s runs. One required to score of the last ball of the MI inning to reach his first ever century, Sachin calmly knocks it to long-off for a single, thus hitting his first ever 100 in a T20 game! The crowd just witnessed history and we already had a nice story to tell our children.

I might be a mallu, but I am a Mumbaikar first. And the way Kochi chased MI’s 182 down with Mahela Jayawardane’s silky smooth batting and Brendon McCullum’s blitzkrieg, we were left to be satisfied with Sachin’s master-class.

Yet, there were a lot of take-aways from what was my first-ever Stadium Experience. For one, seeing Sachin’s straight drive, followed by an array of shots, including his first ever helicopter shot, on his way to the first-ever T20 100. For another, Mahela’s inning made us feel that cricket is a very simple game. Very! And finally, this was also Kochi Tuskers Kerala’s first ever victory in the IPL. 

PS: Not much of KTK’s inning was captured on camera, for much of the time, we were just too stunned with the shots and ease with which Mahela and McCullum took the game away from us!

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Before I start this blog, for those who’d be chancing upon this blog for the first time, I am a mallu – and a proud one at that. Very importantly though for you to note is that, I ain’t a beautiful mallu babe, quite the contrary – I am an ugly pot-belly developing typical mallu guy who has that accent when he is told to pronounce ‘horse’. The ‘experiences’ mentioned in this post comes from the encounters that I’ve had with my female mallu friends.
My name is Mercy (pronounced Mézhsee, the sound of ‘zh’ is a unique attribute of a mallu, so don’t try). I did my pre-degree (that’s 12th/HSc in Mumbai) from Liddlle (Little) Flaaour (Flower) High School, afder (after) which I was made to wride (write) an endranss (entrance) for B Yus C Nezhsing (BSc Nursing). It was a madder (matter) of laif (life) and death. My paarends (parents) would scare me saying that if I didn’t pass, no good bois (boys) from Amerigga (America) will come to marry you. Now, that is a very big insendive (incentive) – not for me, but for my papa and mummy! Nezhsing (Nursing) wasn’t however their first choice. They wanted to mage (make) me a Dogtor (Doctor), but thank GOD that my brayins (brains) were not good enough to make me one!
So, indeed, I passed the endranss and my papa paid a few lags (lakhs) Rubees (rupees). Finally I was a Nezhsing student. I comblleted (completed) the degree with a good amound (amount) of success. After my 2 years of bond at that stupidd (stupid) HhOspotall (Hospital), I gave my I Yee Yell Tee Yus (IELTS) exam. But during that time, I got an obbortunity (opportunity) to go Gellf (Gulf). I yearned (earned) loadds (lots) of money by worging (working) in the Minisdry (Ministry) Hosbitall in Dubbei (Dubai). I sent back some money to my paarends in Gerella (Kerala). They are right now billding (building) a big bungllo (bungalow) type house back in Pattazhi Junction. We will have a sit-out where my sisters Plensy and Dincy can study in peace for their Nezhsing.
After I reach a (marri-yageabblle (marriageable) age, which agjually (actually) for Malayalee paarends start the momend we compleded Nezhsing, my reladives (relatives) from far and wide, whom I never knew existed and cared for me so much, will start bringing probosalls (proposals) for me from Yengineer (Engineer) Bois from Ameriga – the ultimade land of dreamss for many malayalees – so much so that some will trade heaven for Ameriga! Laif (life) is all about adjestments (adjustments), a wise mallu once said, and as my friends say, they are habby seeing their hubby once in a fortnight! For when their hubby walks home from office, they are already in hosbitall for their night shift and vice versa! Afder oll, It’s all about adjestments!
Disclaimer: If the characters and facts mentioned in this blog has a resemblance to any mallu girl- living or dead- it’s purely ‘non-coincidental’ and has birthed from the fact the blogger is a mallu, who has encountered many of his friends and relatives going through this. However, none of my mallu friends have an accent like the one I mentioned above. A salute to all my nursing friends – and this ain’t sacrcasm, for I really cannot do what you guys are doing!)

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Station Names in Mumbai

Growing up in Mumbai can make one get used to a lot of things – ‘names of stations’ would be one such thing. Until, that is, a new visitor to the city gives you those weird expressions when you take these names- expressions that would push Mr. Bean to the second spot. While these station-names have an interesting history behind them (at least a few of them do), a majority of them  are weird and funny! Let’s explore a few…
Diva Junction: Whoever named this station must have had a lot of hope. If this was the only station left on planet earth, you would still struggle to find a single ‘diva’ in Diva! A couple of years back, you would have been lucky to find a soul here, other than a couple of canines.
Andheri: The name is as ironic as the behaviour of the place. Andheri could possibly be the brightest part of Mumbai. From my weird logic, those who christened this station must have actually meant it for Diva. This could be a case like that of ‘The-Taj-Hotel-Architecture-goof-up’.
Badlapur: Roughly translated to ‘Revenge-town’. Need I say more?
Goregoan: This is one racist station!
Charni Road: You won’t find any mangers here. Not unless Christmas is around and Christians start making those tiny ones in the area.
Ambernath: Master of Brownish Yellow. More racism! And to say that Goregoan and Ambernath are at two different sides of the city, I cry conspiracy!
Ulhasnagar: Happy Town! Considering all the filth around in this town, people should be honoured with a President’s Medal merely for surviving there, let alone being happy!
Currey Road: Now this is one name that would fit to any Indian station.
Chinchpokli: ‘Chinch’ means tamarind in Marathi. But I am told there are no tamarind trees nearby. In Mumbai, consider yourself blessed if you find trees at all! (Ok, I am exaggerating here)
King’s Circle: This one’s for the royalty. I would love to live here, merely for the name it possesses.
Wadala: Sure.
Sandhurst Road: For some strange reason, many folks just can’t the pronunciation right for this one, thus, making it sound like… I think I’d leave it at that. 
And there are a few more. But I’ll stop at these, lest these begin to sound like a ‘force fit’.

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As the dust settles on what has been a ‘living the dream’ moment for many Indian cricket buffs, life would slowly trudge back, until at least IPL-4 begins. Meanwhile, here are a few moments that caught my attention (as if it matters) from a World Cup, that many calls the best ever!

Sree’s ‘almost breakdown’: In WC’s opening match against Bangladesh, it wasn’t as much Sehwag’s inning that I remember than the hammering that Sreesanth got. In fact, more so, his reaction after the five wides that he gave away in an over that cost India 24 runs, which till half-way through the tournament was the most expensive over of the World Cup. He almost broke down while going back to his mark and did a good job at holding it back by wiping his face with his elbow. Guess, he reserved some of those for the Finals!
Hot n’ Cold Minnows: While the minnows in Group B gave the big teams, especially England, a good-scare, the ones in Group A seemed to justify ICC’s decision not to have them in the next World Cup. A few players from these lesser equals made a good name for themselves a la Ryan Ten Doeschate and Kevin O’Brien. While fans are still trying to get the pronunciation right for the former, the latter with his ‘I-care-a-hoot’ innings against England earned himself a nick name ‘The Big Kev’! That fearless performance by the Irish, leading them to create the record of the highest-ever chase in a World Cup, stood out for ICC to take note.
Consistently Inconsistent England: Undoubtedly, the team that provided the most exciting moments in the World Cup had to be England. A tie against India after almost successfully pulling up an impossible run-chase, closely-fought defeats against Ireland and Bangladesh and edge-of-the-seat-wins against Netherlands, South Africa and West Indies, all of their first round matches had their fans pulse-rate racing ahead to weird proportions. Their campaign ended with an anti-climax of sorts when Sri Lanka thrashed them in the Quarter Finals. This tournament owes much to England for all that excitement!
The Kiwi Blitzkrieg: Pakistan must have been looking forward to chasing a target of not more than 240 in their league match against the Kiwis when they were struck by the ‘Ross Storm’. Read this – 175/5 in 42 overs; and 210/6 in 46 overs. You’d have virtually missed the whole match (I did) if you missed the four overs that came after! Shoaib concedes 28 off one over, making it the most expensive over of the World Cup. That record doesn’t stand long. An over later, Abdul Razzaq concedes 30. And he does a Sree, and does well not to break down! 92 runs in 25 balls. Carnage! This game, unfortunately though, would be remembered more for Kamran Akmal’s skills or the lack of it behind the wicket than for Ross Taylor’s explosion. Akmal became the latest topic for SMS jokes!
India Dropped: Pakistan’s generosity in the field didn’t end with the New Zealand game. Not once, not twice, but four times was Sachin dropped enroute to his 85 during the much hyped Semi Final between the two arch-rivals. Fielding turned out to be the difference between the two sides as Pakistan lost way during the chase. Afridi’s post-match comments got him a lot of Indian fans, only for him to have thrown it all away in his sore interview to a Pakistani channel.
Slow Seniors: Apart from the Little Master and the Lankans, no senior batsman really got going. Especially noteworthy were the performances by the West Indians Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnaraine Chanderpaul and Pakistanis Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq. These otherwise-talented batsmen just couldn’t get the ball off the square when it mattered and turned out to be liability for their teams.
Chokers Choked Again: New World Cup. New Knock-out. Same old story. South Africans, before the start of the world cup, tried hard vocally to shed the age-old ‘tag’ that they carry with them. Skipper Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis were particularly vocal about this. But sadly, they couldn’t manage to translate that on to the field, as twice, we saw the famous South African collapse – against England and New Zealand – the latter knocking them off the tournament yet again in the knock-out stage.
Sidhu Never Stops: Every analyst who sat opposite Navjot Singh Sidhu must be commended. All of them kept their emotions under check, at least on air! One look at the likes of Sourav Ganguly, who turned out to be a brilliant analyst, and you won’t be faulted for thinking that he might swing his arm across the table in the direction of Sidhu. Simon Hughes, an Englishman, was relieved that Semi Final was his last working day with ESPN-Star (read Sidhu). When someone says, “Look at your hair man. You have gone bald. You have lost your hair!” on your face, it ain’t funny. Not one bit. The sweet victories by India against Australia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka were made sour by watching this gentleman. He would have been bearable if he at least stood by what he said. His opinions about the Indian team and certain matters kept changing match-by-match. Watching him is a lesson in patience. Sitting next to him is an entire education in that.
Captain Cool: This guy goes by instinct. Be it picking Chawla and Sreesanth ahead of Ashwin, which backfired every time or sending himself ahead of in-form Yuvraj in the final. MSD just backs himself. And it paid off in the final. That six to seal India’s World Cup win after 28 years will remain etched in the minds of all Indian cricket fans. But the moment that was worth watching was when Dhoni let emotions overtake him finally after the victory! Scenes of India’s ‘strong men’ a la Yuvraj, Bhajji and Sachin in tears won’t be forgotten too quickly.

PS: Sure, there were many more moments, but then, not everyone would read even to this point! 🙂

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