As the clock ticked slowly towards Saturday evening, Kochi was in a wind up mode. Students were hurrying home, their parents were harried into shopping for dinner. Liquor shops were virtually ransacked while lottery shop owners installed separate screens to lure compulsive buyers.
Kochi was orange and purple on Saturday. Happy to know they could finally cheer for a team of their own, it hasn't taken Kerala much time to succumb to the charms of the Indian Premier League and embrace the colours of the new team.
On the road
Normally bursting at its seams with government buses and autorickshaws, National Highway 47 A — that passes in front of the Nehru stadium that hosts Kochi's matches — looked deserted.
"Most people chose to complete their work by noon. They don't even want to miss the first match between Deccan Chargers and Rajasthan Royals (played in Hyderabad)," said Karthikeyan, manager of an up-market Chinese restaurant.
"We expect restaurants and hotels to be almost empty when Kochi play. Maybe after the match gets over, we can expect some footfall," added the 29-year-old, who was cajoled into joining the chefs so that they could finish lunch before the first match.
Outside the stadium, thousands waited patiently for their turn to be frisked before being allowed entry into the stadium, which is essentially a soccer venue. Spectators came all the way from Thrissur and Kozhikode, which is five to six hours by train from Kochi.
"I came from Kozhikode yesterday to take my mother to a doctor," said 23-year-old Irfan, an IT professional. "I returned to Kozhikode and again took a train to Kochi today. I can't miss a single match here. Just hoping Brendon McCullum fires because he is very important for us," he yelled above the din raised by local enthusiasts playing thavils and udukkus (south Indian drums) as they passed him.
Inside the cauldron
If it was hot outside, inside the stadium it was like a pressure cooker. But it never deterred the local fans, who kept themselves busy dancing to AR Rahman's 'Jai Ho' song. That was until Kochi Tuskers skipper Mahela Jaywardene and Mutthiah Muralitharan entered the scene. The batsman straightaway went to get a feel of the pitch. Murali started bowling at one wicket at the other end, hitting the target with only his second delivery to send the crowd into delirium. Kochi's avid fans will hope their intensity off the field will reflect in the performance of the Tuskers on it.