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North Stand Gang - Divided by profession, united by passion

  • The story of a passionate cricket group based out of the Wankhede in Mumbai
  • It is a gang whose fan base is growing day by day.
EXPERT COLUMNIST
Feature
Modified 19 Mar 2020, 18:18 IST
The North Stand Gang during a match
The North Stand Gang during a match

So next time you see a football fan getting all sentimental

Don't judge him too harshly, be gentle

For though he may appear to be rowdy, rude and awful

A part of him is probably still sitting on a wall

In the North Stand

With his Grandad

In the North Stand

      - From ‘In the North Stand’ by MJ Hibbett & The Validators

This is not London and it is not football. This is Mumbai and a few people are watching the gentleman’s game of cricket between India and Sri Lanka in 2009 from the North Stand of the Brabourne Stadium. They may not be as rowdy as football fans, but their hooting is definitely not music to the ears of the opposition team. The group has an engineer (Anish D’Souza), a chartered accountant (Ajinkya Pandharkar), an entrepreneur (Ashutosh Shirke) among others.

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A group which celebrates cricket

This was the seeding ground for a group which celebrates the game of cricket like few do. They call themselves the North Stand Gang and are usually found cheering for India at the North Stand (as the name suggests) in the Wankhede Stadium. While India has had some individual super fans like Sudhir Kumar Chaudhary and H Saravanan among others, when we talk about fan groups, apart from ‘The Bharat Army’, there have hardly been any noticeable ones who provide an organised fan experience. 

Even then, one may wonder what makes this group special? Well, I haven’t personally heard them cheer at the Wankhede, but from what I gather they are more than a handful. To visualise this, imagine 50-odd people shouting slogans like “Twinkle Twinkle little star, Kohli is a super star” or more innovative ones like “Liri lara layo, haiyo haiyo. Chakala makala chakala makala, hoo ha hoo ha.”

Saachin…Saachin is part of their DNA

Of course like most cricket lovers from India, the chant of “Saachin…Saachin” is part of their DNA. So when I asked about their favourite player as a group, Abhishek Chopra (another active member of the gang) had no hesitation in telling me it was Sachin Tendulkar. One of their core members, Ajinkya in fact convinced his family members to change the date of his marriage as it coincided with Tendulkar’s final Test match in 2013.

There’s more to this gang than these chants. The digital age with the advent of Twitter has worked wonders for them to express their love for the game. Given the reverence for Tendulkar, they have a daily series called #AajkaSachin, which posts photos and stories about the master and is a must watch for any Sachin fan.

Then there are the usual tweets on #HappyBirthday and #OnThisDay. These tiny pieces of information is nothing short of a treasure for any cricket lover and it is no wonder that their Twitter handle’s (@NorthStandGang) popularity is growing day by day. 

“Hoo ha hoo ha” at Lord’s?

Their knowledge and passion has resulted in many cricketers like Aakash Chopra, VVS Laxman, Harbhajan Singh, or even senior journalists like Vijay Lokapally sit up and take notice. In fact, they were recently invited for the Sportstar Annual Awards Function where they met and dined with the great Sunil Gavaskar. The English fan group Barmy Army had also noticed them during the India-England Test in 2016, an event which as per them accelerated their progress. 

Although the Gangs’ current presence is limited to the matches in Mumbai and Pune, they do aspire to travel and support the Indian team wherever they play. Given their enthusiasm, don’t be surprised if the North Stand Gang go global and you hear “hoo ha hoo ha” at the MCG or Lord’s in future. As their idol Sachin himself says, “Dreams do come true”. And maybe, many years down the road we would have a kid singing - "In the Northstand, with my grandad".

Published 19 Mar 2020, 18:18 IST
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