Passion cuts both ways in Rajkot

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

ON Faf du Plessis’ signal a small section of the crowd in the stands behind him leapt to its feet and roared. Then the next section did so … And the next … Soon a rousing Mexican wave rolled around Indore’s Holkar stadium.

So far so everyday for a game of cricket in India. Except that no game was in progress. It was Tuesday, and SA were practising for the second one-day international against India the next day.

Nonetheless a mini multitude had turned up to witness the non-event, a fact Du Plessis brought attention to when he posted a video of his orchestrated mass action on social media.

Another online video, this one on the SA team’s official channel, would have made the nannies of the International Cricket Council sit bolt upright.

“They’re very passionate,” Du Plessis said of Indian cricket fans. “They seem to find their way onto your hotel floor at 11 o’clock in the evening.”

JP Duminy noted that, “The security guards probably take more selfies with you than anyone else.”

Perhaps they should be watching all those Mexican waving fans instead? “It can be a bit over-the-top,” Duminy conceded.

The locals were no doubt chuffed to be able to see some of their Indian Premier League heroes in the flesh on Tuesday, and clearly ecstatic that one of them had chosen to give the cast of thousands starring roles in his movie moment.

But those happinesses would have paled next to India’s win on Wednesday to level the five-match series at 1-1. With that, SA’s unbeaten tour run was ended after four matches, one of them washed out.

The visitors were brought to earth because their batting line-up failed to chase an eminently chaseable target of 248 in good conditions. It really is that simple.

And so to Sunday’s third ODI in Rajkot, where an Indian win will be heralded as an unstoppable swell of momentum and a SA victory greeted as an unfortunate regression. That’s if there is a game to be seen.

Passion – whether that of a cricket fan or, say, Oscar Pistorius – is a double-edged concept in that good and bad can come of it.

Hardik Patel, a political activist, is threatening to block the teams’ journey from their hotel to the Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA) stadium to play Sunday’s match and to throw a cordon of angry protestors around the ground.

Patel campaigns for the noble cause of securing quota reservations in India’s education system and government appointments for members of the downtrodden Patidar caste.

“The SCA should clarify why they declared that all tickets (to the match) are sold in spite of the fact that many tickets remain unsold,” he was quoted as saying by the Times of India.

Hardik’s contention is that the SCA have given thousands of tickets to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, which he opposes.

Security officials have promised that the game will not be disrupted. Whether they are the same officials who could do nothing to stop the rain of plastic bottles that flew from the stands onto the field when SA neared victory in the second T20 in Cuttack, twice interrupting play, was not immediately known.

Who says sport and politics don’t mix? Probably the same people who say SA can’t play spin and Indians can’t play fast bowling.

We know that’s rubbish. What we don’t know is whether SA will refrain from playing the reckless shots we saw on Wednesday. If they do, the crowd won’t need Du Plessis to kick-start their Mexican wave.

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