Bowled Over
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As a child, I had very little interest in sports. My parents tried hard to increase my interest by sending me to badminton classes at our local sports club, tennis lessons, volleyball games, etc., but my interest dwindled. I didn’t play sports, watch sports, or even read about sports. Over the last few years, my interest in sports in general has not changed, but I have begun to pay more attention to one game: cricket. This happened as a byproduct of the time I spent with my grandfather who is an avid cricket fan. Day after day, as we sat together catching up on the day’s happenings, his TV played cricket matches in the background. At first, I never thought of the sport as more than eleven players chasing one object. Sachin Tendulkar wasn't my God. I didn’t know what LBW meant. I didn’t care to know. Yet, day after day, I found myself becoming more curious about the game itself. I learned about runs, overs, LBWs and wickets.

The next milestone that piqued my interest was IPL. The Indian Premium Legal was not only the 20-over fun game, but it also brought tapped into my fierce loyalty for my birth city (Chennai) and growth city (Bangalore). I followed all the seasons with my grandfather who picked his favorite team by performance while I divided my loyalty between Chennai and Bangalore. The IPL was also exciting because it was the first sport in the country to introduce international players. The system of bidding for players was new, thrilling and probably as gripping as the game itself. 50 matches later, I found myself wanting to watch a live cricket match. To fulfill my desire, my fiancé gifted me the experience of watching a game between my home team and a team that is on my list of top five IPL teams.

Match day arrived. I was extremely excited and dressed in red to support my team. I headed to the stadium over an hour early. As a local, I estimated the city's traffic situation aptly. Less than two kilometers took me close to 20 minutes. My first excitement kicked in while waiting for a friend two streets away from the stadium. There were throngs of people making their way to the stadium and sports bars to watch the match. The streets were filled with supporters creating a charged environment.  My walk towards the stadium was probably the best walks I have had on that particular street. I had never seen a gathering of that size before. From people finding their gates, to people in large groups cheering, to people taking selfies, I thought I had witnessed it all. But I was completely wrong. Once I had walked into the stadium and experienced the grandeur and atmosphere of the arena I was speechless. I was overwhelmed by its vastness and how small I felt in it, but soon the enthusiastic vibe of the crowd engulfed me and excitement took over.

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The experience of watching the game live was extremely different from watching it on TV.  I could barely tell which player was on which part of the field. I was trying hard to keep my eyes on the game while still trying to soak in the cheering, the emotions of the people around, the smells, the sounds, the lights, the sights…all of it. It was amazing to see feel one with the crowd and to experience the same state of my mind with 30'000 other people.

Sadly, my home team lost. But I left the arena thinking that I wouldn’t trade my experience even for a winning match for my team. Selfish? Maybe! But I absolutely loved my first stadium experience and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. I now understand why cricket is a religion.