‘Cricket fever’ Raipur’s tryst with international cricket debut

On Friday, January 20, you could walk into a small mobile shop in Pandri, Raipur to buy a charger and get asked, “Match dekhne aaye hai kya?” (Came to see the match?).

As Chattisgarh Cricket Association Secretary, Mukul Tiwari tells The Indian Express, “Fever hai total cricket ka.”

“We put the tickets out on January 11, and within four to five hours, the show was sold out.Their website also crashed. The fans were standing outside the hotel we’re staying, hoping to get tickets. Bilaspur. Ambikapur. Korba. Raigarh, there isn’t an area around the town, no matter how rural, that hasn’t got a hoarding of the game.”

Jatin Agarwal, a businessman in the city, tells about the nervous buildup from the time it was announced that Raipur will get to host their first international cricket match to the moment he got hold of a ticket.

“We were holding our breath, hoping we would get tickets … it felt so good,” he says.

This isn’t the first time Jatin is watching a cricket match at the Shahid Veer Narayan Stadium, with most of the city cricket fanatics having got a taste of IPL and T20 Champions League games in its initial years. This however, is different. Saturday isn’t a day to shut shop but on this occasion it is. “Aaj Rohit Sharma hai.”

Sanjay Nayamati and his son Samvid pose in the kits of the latter’s two favorite players. (Express Photo)

Schools are no exceptions.

Samvid Nayamati’s father, Doctor Sanjay is an academician by profession and heart. Principal of the Triveni Dental College in Bilaspur. However, when it came to his son’s ardent wish to watch his favorite duo of Suryakumar Yadav and Virat Kohli, he made the exception of allowing to skip school.

And he isn’t the only one.

Teen-aged Srinay Shukla travelled 30 kms to watch one Virat Kohli in the flesh. Encouraged to skip school by his father, who proudly concedes, “it wasn’t a holiday for kids, chutti maari hai (we bunked). You will get only get 50% attendance in schools today.

Kohli arrived in Raipur even before he landed. A giant sized mural in Bhatagaon Chowk with the Indian flag draped around the former India captain, celebrating one of his 74 international tons in India colors.

Vikas Kalia (left) alongwith his family at the Shahid Veer Narayan Stadium. (Express Photo)

On Friday, when the players arrived for the optional training session at the match venue, there was an audible gasp among the hundreds clinging onto the railing as the team bus entered.

“Kya yaar, the one I wanted to meet didn’t come. I had even brought my bat for him to sign,” sighed Shubham Kumar.

India’s new batting superhero Suryakumar Yadav has generated loud emotions and good business. Among the more in demand 100 rupee kits being sold on the roadside are those with the number 63.

“Ekach Vaada (promise) Surya Dada,” shouts Sahil Kalia, whose father, Vikas, adds that the family has ‘especially’ come to breathe in the ‘360 degree’ player at his best.

“His shots are quite something .. an art form”

Only the beginning

“It’s a very important day for Raipur,” India bowling coach Paras Mhambrey had said in the pre-game press conference. The hospitality has been great. Rahul (Dravid) has also played here and has spoken great big things about his experience here.”

But as the curtain raises off the venue, there the inevitable question of what’s next comes flying in.

“This is our beginning” the former CCA Secretary, Rajesh Dave told this paper. “Unfortunately two years went into some litigation. Then two years in covid. I feel like we’ll get to host the IPL again and we will definitely push for a World Cup match.”

Jatin Agarwal gets breathless at the thought of it, “There won’t be anything bigger than that. I would sit first for that early in the morning itself.”

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