Crowd adds to sight in Karnataka's rise

Fans thronged the stands during Karnataka's Vijay Hazare Trophy final against Tamil Nadu at the M Chinnaswamy staduim. DH PHOTO/ SRIKANTA SHARMA R

The cliche 'cricket is a religion in India' will never go out of fashion. On Friday, the M Chinnaswamy Stadium wasn’t hosting an international match, nor were Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), the city's second-most backed team after the national side, in action. But the stupendous response for the final of the Vijay Hazare Trophy was yet another reminder of the people's passion for the game in the City. 

With Karnataka figuring in the title clash, there was never any doubt that there would be a good turnout. That they were locking horns with arch-rival Tamil Nadu only added to the hype. So much so, that the Karnataka State Cricket Association decided to throw open a second stand after the P3 Stand filled up an hour into the contest. Approximately 3500 people were in attendance.  

It's more than just a game when these two southern powerhouses meet, observes Vijay Kalyana Raman. "I have been following the Karnataka State team from 2005-06. I love our boys. A Karnataka-Tamil Nadu clash is like an India-Pakistan match. Emotions run high," says the final year student of journalism from National College (Jayanagar).

Despite it being a weekday, youngsters flocked the stadium. Bunking college was always the plan, many admit. "In the recent past, we have had bad memories of this ground, with RCB losing so many matches. So it's great to see the Karnataka team doing so well," says Pawan, a student of Sheshadripuram College student, gleefully waving the Karnataka ‘flag’ every time his ‘boys’ found the fence. 

One of the striking features of the final was the encouraging number of recent international stars in both sides. If Karnataka had KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Manish Pandey and Karun Nair, the visitors boasted of R Ashwin, Dinesh Karthik, Murali Vijay, Washington Sundar and Vijay Shankar.

“We were glad that we had a game in Bangalore because the crowd's always behind us, from the first ball,” acknowledged Pandey, the Karnataka skipper. “Maybe it's small numbers, but anything beyond the 11 guys playing inside -- any voice from outside -- will definitely help. It's definitely an advantage.”

Understandably, Tamil Nadu didn’t enjoy the same support, but Karthik was happy that people had thronged the venue to cheer their heroes. “At the end of the day, we are entertainers and we don’t want to play in front of empty stands,” the Tamil Nadu skipper asserted.

The final showed that domestic cricket too can attract fans under the right circumstances. Enjoying the game with his friend right at the back of the P33 stand was John Brown, down here all the way from Bristol in England.

"I am here in India to meet my friends. I saw Tamil Nadu play in Jaipur and they had so many good players. I am from England, so obviously I am a cricket fanatic. Good to see Ravi Ashwin, Karthik and KL Rahul in domestic cricket. This will have a positive impact on the youngsters," says Brown, who works in the tourism industry.

KR Market flower-seller Murugan, clad in a white veshti and a matching shirt, was one of the few not rooting for the home side. "I love the Tamil Nadu team,” he says, but quickly remembers who he is among. “Unfortunately, Karnataka is very strong and I think they will win." 

Playing in dark blue kits, the Karnataka team also attracted the attention and support of a bunch of schoolkids. "The blues are going to do it. And we know it," they screamed.

They really did know it.

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