Centurion, March 14: Lots of sunscreen lotion, a camera, an Indian T-shirt, a Tricolour, two tireless hands that can clap and a voice that can shout till the last ball is bowled....
The list of must-haves if you are to find a place with the “crazy (about cricket) Indians” in the stands or on the greens of the SuperSport Park.
As a sea of blue shirts and an ocean of saffron-green-white sweeps Centurion, try tossing the term “inconsequential match for India” at a girl in noodle straps with a 10 rand tricolour painted on her left cheek, and she’ll snap back: “Against New Zealand, izzat ka sawaal hai!” No arguments please, for the girl dancing to Las Ketchup at lunch and living in South Africa for 18 months.
“Welcome to Tshwane” flashed the giant screen through the match; Tshwane being Pretoria re-christened and meaning “we are the same”. But in the suburb of Tshwane hosting the India-New Zealand match, there was no ‘sameness’ between the two sets of supporters.
“Wiiicket, wiiicket, wiiicket,” screamed a couple of boys in Black Caps, only to be drowned by a defeaning roar of “Hoo haa Tendulkaa” from boys and girls in blue and men and women in next to nothing.
“I bought this Tricolour from Khadi Gramudyog Bhavan in Delhi last winter,” announces Anuratna Chadha of Citibank, posted in Calcutta before heading for Sandton two years ago. His friend Ajay Sharma, from Citibank, Mumbai, has had to settle for a ‘local’ Tricolour. “A gang of friends got together to travel with the team and help win the Cup,” he declares.
Outside the stadium, ‘general vendor’ Mario has run out of Indian colours (cap for 70 rand, jersey for 140 rand, flag for 100 rand). “Around 15,000 (of 20,000) people on the ground are carrying something Indian,” he says.
An Indian shirt from Pantaloons, Mumbai, sits easy on Vikas Sagar, working for McKinsey in South Africa. “Why doesn’t the Indian Board make official jerseys available to us, man. It’s most unfair,” he complains.
Arun Chadha, a steel trader in Centurion for a decade now, is in no mood to complain. For a man who’s placed 40 bets on the match — from the Kiwis scoring less then 150 to Zaheer taking two-plus wickets, Dravid taking two-plus catches and scoring 50+runs — he’s as cool as Kaif turned out to be.
“We’re here to have fun. No negative thoughts. When an Indian batsman gets beaten, we say ‘Bowler bach gaya, nahin to chauka ho jata!’”
Fun turns to fervour when Sachin Tendulkar strides out. “God, God, God” goes the chant, followed by the more human “Sachin, Sachin, Sachin”. Among those rising to their feet, handycam in hand, is former Doordarshan boss Rathikanta Basu. “Sachin ekai eksho...,” he exclaims, watching the second of the straight drives off Tuffey.
“I saw Gary Sobers and Rohan Kanhai when I was young … but this chap is right up there with them,” adds the Tara chief keeping his tryst with friends who had promised four years ago at Lord’s to catch the final stages of World Cup 2003 if India stood a shouting chance.
If shouting is the operative word, India all but won the Cup at SuperSport Park. At 5.03 pm, as Kaif pulled Styris to the midwicket fence in the pouring rain, the roar could well have reached Calcutta, minus Sony.
“Gali, gali mein nara hai, World Cup hamara hai,” went the chorus. But the chant that went on well into the March evening was: “Hooo, haaa, Indiaaa; Hooo, haaa, Indiaa”.