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Hyderabad greets rivals in style

If it was a strange sight to see a 40,000-strong 'away' crowd greeting Tendulkar to the crease with chants of "Sachin, Sachin", the visibly unhappy faces at his dismissal were even stranger. Arjun Sen reports.

cricket Updated: May 19, 2008 00:41 IST
Arjun Sen

It's a funny one, this. Despite Hyderabad's IPL campaign going up in smoke, and a semi-final spot completely out of the question, turnouts at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium have been increasing with every game. While the match against Kolkata witnessed the first near-full house, it was pretty much a similar case on Sunday.

Hyderabadis, who chose to stay away from their team's matches when the tournament began, have suddenly taken to the cricket on offer. Slowly but surely, the IPL has caught the fancy here. The crowds have been building with every passing match and the city has suddenly come alive to the glitz and glamour on offer.

But what has prompted this sudden change in turnout? Why have the locals suddenly decided to show up at the ground?

Well, the home team's performances can certainly not be the reason for this surge in popularity. Hyderabad's performances have been reaching new levels of incompetence with every game and their remaining matches have been reduced to proverbial dead rubbers. People have, in fact, turned up to watch the opposition Hyderabad have been up against.

Both matches against Kolkata and Mumbai that saw the biggest crowds, were headlined by cricketers who, quite like anywhere else in the country, are big favourites in Hyderabad. Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar might have been captaining the opposition on the day, but Hyderabadis couldn't care less.

All they wanted was a glimpse of their favourite stars, and they came out in numbers to do just that. "We don't care who he is playing for. He is our favourite and we will come to see him play whenever he is in Hyderabad," was what Vijay Kumar, a cab driver who had braved the heat to watch the Kolkata game, had to say about Ganguly last Sunday. It was a similar case for the match against Mumbai. If it was a strange sight to see a 40,000-strong 'away' crowd greeting Tendulkar to the crease with chants of "Sachin, Sachin", the visibly unhappy faces at his dismissal were even stranger.

Two big turnouts was just the kind of response the organisers here needed. "There were serious doubts about the success of this event in the future, but the crowds in the last two games have given us hope that there could yet be something to look forward to in the next season," said a member of the organising committee.

"We just needed to host Kolkata and Mumbai earlier," he cheekily added.