From the Queen’s Necklace in Mumbai on Saturday evening to the ruins of the Barabati Killa, a fort whose nine storeys have vanished but the moat and the gate still stand tall, a day later. Well, the contrast in a country of 1.2 billion people was reflected in the itinerary of the West Indies’ tour of India.
As a result, when the Caribbean players checked into a five-star hotel along with their Indian counterparts in Orissa’s capital of Bhubaneswar, 30-odd kms from the venue of Tuesday’s first of the five ODIs, the laidback town of Cuttack, the old headquarters of the state, came alive even on a weekend afternoon.
While all roads naturally led to the Biju Patnaik airport in Bhubaneswar, the local media and fans who had gathered in numbers since morning to welcome their stars were forced to greet the Mumbai cricketers — men in dark blue — who arrived for the Ranji Trophy tie against Orissa, instead of those in light blue attire.
But the crowd didn’t mind as long as they got the prized autographs and photographs with popular faces like Wasim Jaffer, Ajit Agarkar and Ramesh Powar.
By evening, when both the teams arrived by a special plane, the airport had transformed into a fair ground. Indeed, you don’t get to know what cricket means to an ordinary Indian till you witness his passion in smaller centres.
And as the Barabati Stadium saw a dress rehearsal of the state police ahead of the day-night tie, the Odisha Cricket Association had become the epicentre of all activities, from distributing accreditations to welcoming VIPs.
But the most important job had already been done as the OCA officials were proud that the match was a “sell-out”. Yes, you are right! Each one of the 45,000-odd seats up for grabs has been sold out 48 hours prior to the first ball being bowled.
And the tickets didn’t come cheap. They ranged from those for students at concessional rate, priced at Rs 200, to the Corporate Boxes, which cost Rs 8000 per head.
But an auto-rickshaw ride through the narrow roads makes you realise that if a colonial town like Cuttack — where a recreational club is still a mere 10 ft x10 ft room with one or two carrom boards — does not attract a sell-out stadium for an international cricket match, no other centre in India ever will.