| India skipper Mithali Raj in action against Pakistan at Barabati Stadium on Thursday |
Cuttack, Feb. 7: Spectators soared at the Barabati Stadium today, proving that cricket lovers had reserved their loudest roar for the clash between traditional rivals, India and Pakistan.
Though it was a playoff, with both teams crashing out of the women’s World Cup, the empty stands and an extra cushion of security provided the perfect excuse for kids to bunk school and catch live action.
Hundreds of sprightly kids from various city schools thronged the stadium, cheering and clapping to their heart’s content throughout the match.
“This is the first time that I am watching a match live at a stadium. Since there is thin crowd for the World Cup here, my father readily agreed to bring me and two of my friends to watch the match. We are happy that India won,” said Class VII student Satya Suman Dash.
Security has been stepped up at Barabati as the Pakistan team is facing threats here following recent tension on the Indo-Pak border. This seems to have encouraged a lot of parents to send their children to watch the match amid tight security arrangements.
“Usually, it becomes difficult to watch any international match along with one’s family, especially children, because of the crowd. But since the stands were nearly empty during the previous matches, I decided to bring my two sons to watch this match. They are very happy and can’t stop talking about it,” said Devakar Sahu, a parent.
However, many of the excited youngsters were disappointed because the security personnel did not allow them to carry flags, placards and cheering props inside.
“I spent last evening making a poster on promotion of friendship between India and Pakistan. But I was not allowed to take it in,” said Savita Swain, a college student.
The turnout at Barabati today was almost five times of what other Women’s World Cup matches had registered. The old pavilion stand, which remained vacant during other matches, was filled almost to the brink.
Nearly 5,000 spectators from across the state, especially Balangir, Sambalpur, Puri and Khurda, had come to be part of the encounter between the traditional rivals. This despite the fact that both teams are already out of the tournament.
“It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch a India-Pakistan match live, be it the men’s team or the women’s team and in any part of the world. I would have never missed the opportunity, not for anything,” said Saurav Dixit, a spectator from Balangir.
Quite a few cricket enthusiasts, who could not make it to the stadium, closely monitored the match developments online.
“I had sought leave from office as I was planning to watch the game at the stadium. But because of a last minute change of plans, it was not possible. So, I was constantly checking the updates on cricket websites,” said Sidharth Das, a marketing executive.
Another area of disappointment for spectators was the exclusion of local girl Roshan Ara Parveen from the playing IX today. “She played only one match in the tournament. She should have been given the opportunity to play in her home state,” said Sheetal, a college student.
Even as India trounced Pakistan by six wickets in an exciting encounter, cricket, too, won over protests outside the stadium by political outfits. Neither the sloganeering nor the two-tier security checks could deter the spectators from enjoying the match live.
“The turnout proved that cricket is above politics,” said Abdul Sattar, 61, a local resident.