NEW DELHI: As Arun Jaitley Stadium, formerly known as Feroz Shah Kotla, in New Delhi hosted its first international match after more than two years, a sea of crowd descended on it to cheer for the Indian team.
The massive snarl-up on the roads leading up to the stadium was a precursor to the crowd frenzy. The lanes near the stadium, packed to the brim, resonated with energetic chants as spectators lined up outside the gates to enter the stadium. Many people were waving the tricolour with a flourish to show their excitement.
Most of the rousing slogans were reserved for the local boy Rishabh Pant who was leading the team for the first time in an international match. The wicket-keeper was named India’s skipper for the South Africa series after KL Rahul was ruled out due to a right-groin injury.
International cricket had come to a shuddering halt in the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though other cities of India hosted a few international encounters and Indian Premier League matches during this period, the capital of India didn’t get any matches.
The people in the capital were starved for watching a sporting spectacle unfold in the stadium, hence they made a beeline and flocked to the stadium in droves. The scorching heat didn’t dampen their spirit or spunk even a bit as they celebrated the return of international cricket to Delhi like a carnival.
Most of the seats in the stadium were occupied even before the match began. Even amid an atmosphere of fervour, they stood up in reverence when the national anthem of India was being played before the match.
Once the match began, every run scored by Indian batsmen was fervently applauded. Ishan Kishan and Shreyas Iyer thrilled them to bits as they unfurled a host of sixes. However, expectedly, Pant received the most rapturous welcome when he came out to bat. The flamboyant left-hander didn’t disappoint his city folks and sent them into delirium as he unleashed an electrifying cameo of 29 runs off 16 balls.
The Delhi crowd got more than their money’s worth on a hot summer evening. Alas, the result could not meet their expectations.