The biggest match of the IPL season thus far, and one would have expected the stadium to be packed to the rafters. However, when the Royal Challengers Bangalore took on defending champions Chennai Super Kings in the first qualifier of the IPL IV playoffs at the Wankhede stadium here on Tuesday it wasn't the sound of delirious fans that greeted the players, but rather the sight of empty stands.
It was billed as a can't miss match. The team that finished top in this season's IPL league standings against the one that came second. However, the cricket-loving public of Mumbai certainly thought it was worth a miss as a sparse turnout took some of the sheen off the match.
The Wankhede stadium has a capacity of 32,000, however, less than half the number turned out as empty seats were the order of the day.
The IPL has been plagued by poor attendance and dropping TV ratings all season long. Even the advent of the playoffs brought no respite as scores of empty seats could be found spread out across the stadium.
The Sunil Gavaskar pavilion was the only one brimming with fans, and not a seat could be had in that section. RCB fans were waving their red flags while the CSK fans got their yellow flags out.
However, the atmosphere was markedly different in the other stands. The Divecha pavilion was lifeless as was the top tier of the Garware and Vijay Merchant pavilions.
Holding the playoffs at a neutral venue could be partly to blame as just two days ago the teams faced off in front of a packed house at the M Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore.
An MCA official had a different take on why fans chose to ignore the match that decided who advanced directly to the final. "The Wankhede being a neutral venue for both CSK and RCB could partly be attributed as the reason for the poor turnout. Maybe the fans are just saving themselves for the big one tomorrow when hosts Mumbai Indians face Kolkata Knight Riders in a must-win match. If that doesn't guarantee a full house, nothing will," said the official.
R Ashwin has put the lights out on the hopes of many batsmen this season. On Tuesday, a batsman put his lights out, literally. RCB's Saurabh Tiwary hammered one back in the bowler's direction and before he could make way, eyes closed, the ball flew straight into his head. Tiwary's shots pack a punch, and so powerful was his strike the ball ricocheted off Ashwin's left temple and flew to long off. The visibly shaken bowler had to be helped off the field.
Seals it with a kiss
Murali Vijay is a proven fielder and catcher. However, he's had a few embarrassing moments in this campaign, none more than the sitter he dropped off Brad Hodge in the win against the Kochi Tusker Kerala in Chennai last week. Standing at deep midwicket Vijay failed to hold on, somehow letting the ball out of his grasp. On Tuesday, he found himself in a similar position as AB de Villiers swung to mid-wicket. This time Vijay made no mistake, and sealed it with a kiss after the ball was safely in his hands.