Even before the colourful memories of IPL could fade, rural cricket was re-invented in the Ambedkar stadium in Musafir Khana, here on Monday.
The final of the Rajiv Gandhi Rural Cricket Tournament, in a non-descript village of Musafir Khana in Amethi may have been sans the glitterati and glamour of the IPL, but the presence of cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar and youth icon Rahul Gandhi added thrill and excitement to the jam-packed stadium.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Robert Vadra, their son Rehan and cricketers RP Singh and Pankaj Singh enthusiastically cheered the teams. Out of 1,857 teams, Tilohi and Sangrampur villages made it to the final. About 400 players in the tournament were Dalits and from other backward classes.
The match started one-and-a-half hours behind schedule. But despite the inhospitable sun, villagers gathered in thousands for a glimpse of the master blaster. Local boy, from the neighbouring Rae Bareli district, RP Singh arrived first. The match began with Rahul Gandhi walking down to the pitch for the toss.
Samgrampur went in to bat first. Each cheer was followed by a scan of the VIP stand, but Sachin was conspicuous by his absence. Just as the Sangrampur were about to finish their innings, the wait ended with the entire stadium (even the players) joining in to welcome the star.
Sangrampur won the match and Neelesh Singh was declared Man of the Match. Tendulkar presented the winners with a Rs 3 lakh cheque and trophy, while Priyanka and Robert Vadra presented the runners-up trophy.
"It’s a unique experience. We wish that such tournaments, even on a small scale, are held every year," said a player from Dharora village, which made it to the semi-finals.