x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Lasith Malinga can only temporarily silence Mumbai crowd

The most deafening silence in cricket has always been that which greets Sachin Tendulkar's dismissal in a match inside his home stadium.

Sri Lanka's Lasith Malinga, left, celebrates with Mahela Jayawardene after taking the wicket Sachin Tendulkar at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai last night.
Sri Lanka's Lasith Malinga, left, celebrates with Mahela Jayawardene after taking the wicket Sachin Tendulkar at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai last night.

Handsome, smiley, loveableLasith Malinga is not even half as popular as he was this time yesterday. Not even close.

The most deafening silence in cricket has always been that which greets Sachin Tendulkar's dismissal in a match inside his home stadium. That racket was magnified a hundredfold, at least, last night.

The newly refurbished Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai was constructed ahead of this tournament with high-tech exhaust fans designed to suck hot air out through the roof of the stands to keep supporters cool.

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More on the World Cup final

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When the city's golden child nicked off to Malinga in the seventh over of the World Cup final, going directly against the script, it was as if those exhaust fans had extracted everything - noise, belief, hope, oxygen.

Observing the mood swings of the crowd inside the modern Wankhede was like pouring potpourri into a jack-in-the-box, sealing the lid and waiting for it to go off.

The spontaneous explosions were many and frequent. The only time it was quieted for any length of time was when Tendulkar went. And even that was just an intermission for a reload.

Even Malinga, the party-pooper, can silence an Indian crowd for only so long.

Once the shock had been absorbed that the local boy's fairy tale of reaching 100 international hundreds in the final was not to come true, it seemed like the penny dropped that a game was still on.

Or at least it would have done, had there been any pennies to drop; coins were among the prohibited items of an exhaustive security operation for the final.

Among other, more significant features on the security plan, the Indian navy and coastguard have been put on high alert to thwart attacks on the ground from air or sea. Airspace over South Mumbai was also declared a no-fly zone.

Reports had also suggested there would be in the region of 4,000 security staff present at the game, meaning one soldier, commando or police officer for every seven people inside the ground. On the evidence of the naked eye, this must have been an underestimate.

Marine Drive, usually a busy thoroughfare running along Mumbai's coast and parallel to the ground, was barricaded.

Ahead of the game, the only people on it, other than the lucky ticket-holders, were police with pistols holstered at the waist or soldiers carrying machine guns.

The outfits of the commandos seemed a little incongruous. Blue camouflage does not really camouflage people against much - perhaps other than a crowd of 33,000 people wearing the blue of either India or Sri Lanka.

Once the contraband had been sifted out, it was clear all the fans really needed for the day was a blue shirt on their backs and a flag in their hands.

Every cricket match involving India runs a thin line between being either a celebration or a commercial.

Often the two interweave, like at the toss yesterday. As the pre-match fervour was reaching its crescendo, and everyone awaited what was expected to be a fateful flip, Ravi Shastri, the stadium announcer, told the world that the coin would be up for auction on the ICC website after the game.

If there is a deal to be had, some folk would sell their grandmothers in this part of the world. Mumbai's entrepreneurs rarely miss a chance to make a quick rupee. The tricolour salesman was celebrating a day of days yesterday.

Given the success of this World Cup, cricket's commercial boom in these parts has some way to run yet. Even if there is a sales dip on fluffy Lasith Malinga wigs.

 

pradley@thenational.ae