There was no Mumbai batsman in Tuesday’s first warm-up match between India ‘A’ and England at the Brabourne Stadium, but Mumbaikars thronged the ground to see their favourite India superstars -- MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Shikhar Dhawan and Ashish Nehra. (Live scores and updates)
Though the gates opened at 12pm, an hour before the start, people started queuing up from 10am onwards. By the time England had bowled the first five overs, the north and east stands had filled up completely with entry being free for spectators. The west stand -- partially under repair -- was forced open due to pressure of the crowd waiting outside the ground. By the end of the first 10 overs, over 15,000 people had crammed in to watch the game.
Crowd has turned out in numbers in CCI. The stands are full and we all know why! pic.twitter.com/1HckNnNd1d— BCCI (@BCCI) January 10, 2017
Dhoni was of course the flavour of the practice match as this is his last game captaining any India side. Yuvraj was a close second on the popularity chart. Despite Tuesday being a working day, there were many young fans spotted at the Churchgate station wearing Dhoni’s No. 7 jersey.
As one came closer to the ground, quite a few were also spotted wearing the yellow Chennai Super Kings jersey, the IPL team fans still associate Dhoni with. Chants of ‘Dhoni Dhoni’ started getting stronger and louder at the iconic ground as the crowd started getting in the mood. The chants reached a crescendo when Dhoni came out for the toss with England skipper Eoin Morgan.
But that wasn’t the end of it. Expecting Dhoni to come out to bat, the spectators chanted his name again after opener Mandeep Singh was dismissed for eight. The chants however died as soon as Ambati Rayudu was seen walking out to bat.
Many die-hard fans of Dhoni had travelled from Mumbai’s farthest suburbs to watch the legendary captain’s last act. “It is difficult to think of Team India not led by Dhoni. It is like an end of an era. We didn’t want to miss Dhoni leading for one last time,” said Jigar Desai, who was accompanied by a group of friends.
Another bunch of fans had bunked the last couple of lectures at college --- a stone’s throw from the stadium --- when they heard India had been put to bat. “The noise is audible in our classroom. In such a situation it is too hard to resist not coming to the ground. We had enough reasons to come for the match with Yuvraj making his comeback into the Indian team and Dhoni captaining for the last time,” said Krish Sharma, a B.Com undergraduate.