Saturday evening game, ambient weather, an incredibly hyped up match (Dada vs KKR) – that is what the KKR vs PWI match had to offer in game number 70 of the IPL. But as IPL-5 has turned out, this match was mostly of academic interest, for the position on the table for either side wouldn’t be affected with the result. 8 consecutive losses is not the kind of scenario you would want to have at the back of your mind before you venture out to watch and support your team, and the Pune fans would have been forgiven for not turning up for the match. Yet there were 45,000 seats that were occupied at the Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium yesterday, an indicator that team form and results are irrelevant when it comes to crowd support at ‘smaller’ venues.
Pune doesn’t have an identity on the cricket globe as of now; neither does it have a big player who has represented India for a long time nor is there any national academy or famous cricket centre. But what it surely has is a horde of ‘live-action-hungry’ people! The day Sahara bought the Pune franchise, Facebook statuses and tweets from ‘Punekars’ conveyed the sentiment of anticipation at being a part of competitive cricket and the joy of being able to watch the glamorous contests in their backyard. The IPL as a product attracts families to the stadiums and Pune was no exception. Witnessing a 60-year old playing the bugle joyously or a 20-member family enjoying the 3-hour package, you can safely conclude that the IPL as a product has won on this front, hands-down.
Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium has provided a new lease of life for cricket in and around Pune. Exquisitely designed, carefully sculpted, inclusive of all the modern amenities, the picturesque venue has a lot to make you fall in love with it! Built on the outskirts of the city, the organizers have managed to acquire huge spaces of land on their side, thereby ‘potentially’ hosting thousands of people without much hassle. This being the first year of the stadium, the organizers would have learnt lessons out of the experience of hosting 8 matches, with regard to the crowded parking bays, tiny and few entry and exit points (for vehicles) and sluggish walking paths towards the stadium.
Barring these few glitches, which hopefully the organizers will rectify as soon as possible, the stadium boasts of most spectator-friendly facilities, which have been a shortcoming with most old-fashioned venues across the country. Just as you cross all the security levels you find a couple of cops stationed at the ‘first-aid’ table. The washrooms are easily accessible, berth location is a user-friendly exercise, drinking water (not cold drinks, potato chips etc.) wasn’t too far and the stands had a few ‘active’ volunteers and security guards keeping things in check. These are minor things which don’t generally make it to the discussion forums or advertisement brochures but form an integral part of the overall outlook and appeal of any public centre.
So if you are willing to have patience while coming in and going out of the stadium (which at the moment is a very time-consuming activity), then a visit to the Sahara Stadium is a recommended exercise; even if you happen to not be an ardent cricket follower!