The ICC cricket World Cup, scheduled to start on February 19, is going to be a special one for Mumbai: apart from two games in the league stages, the city will host the finals, at the renovated Wankhede stadium.
It could be still more special if India reach the finals and the city’s son, Sachin Tendulkar, gets the one prize that has eluded him in his 21-year-long international cricket career — the Cup itself — on his home ground.
It is in anticipation of such a climax that fans have begun gearing up for the big tournament. With the first game less than a fortnight away, talk in and around the various maidans is centred around the likelihood of Dhoni and his men lifting the Cup, and the stiff opposition they might encounter from South Africa, England and other teams en route to the finals on April 2. While some of the city’s brightest young cricketers such as Prithvi Shaw (12) look forward to seeing the batting exploits of Tendulkar and Ponting, veterans are keen to see how an Indian team, confident from the SA tour, takes on the Opposition.
Mumbaiites in the city have begun their SWOT analysis of various teams and their players, but they’re not stopping at that. Or even at making inquiries about tickets for the finals. Many of them are looking beyond Mumbai already; they are keen to fly to various venues to catch the action. Nagpur and Bangalore have at the moment emerged the most favoured destinations, the former due to its proximity, and the latter, due to easy accessibility. More venues could be picked after a closer look at the schedule, and the collection of Cup merchandise too is likely to begin soon.
All in the hope, of course, that after having seen the league games at the Wankhede and other matches elsewhere, they could be back at the stadium in Churchgate on April 2 and see India end its 27-year-long wait for the Cup.