The Wankhede faithful not so fan-tastic

Old-timers say the Mumbai crowd lacks respect for the players,reflecting the boorish behaviours of the cricketers.

Written by Bharat Sundaresan | Published:May 14, 2013 3:12 am

AS the IPL VI season heats up,the Wankhede cauldron has begun getting to both players and spectators alike with the anger boiling over intermittently. As the fabled venue prepares to host its final match of the ongoing season,crowd behaviour will once again be under scrutiny.

Generally well behaved,the Mumbai crowd attracted flak for its shenanigans,especially for the incident involving Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper Virat Kohli. The India batsman had deplored the Mumbai crowd’s abusive behaviour calling them hateful after they had launched a tirade against him,repeatedly calling him a ‘cheater’.

Old-timers from the city’s cricket circles though insist that the crowd’s antics are reflecting the boorish behaviour of the modern-day players on the field these days.

“Players jaise,crowd waise. These days the crowds that come to Wankhede have no respect for the players,regardless of their stature. They abuse even Tendulkar and Sehwag.

“But when players use such abusive language on the field themselves,they can have no gripe when the crowds give them a similar dose,” says veteran coach Mangesh Bhalekar,who shaped the careers of former India internationals Chandrakant Pandit and Lalchand Rajput.

It’s just not the derisive language used by cricketers these days that’s influencing the IPL generation fans but also their seemingly choreographed expressions of delight and disappointment,adds Nagesh Thakur,another seasoned coach from the maidans of Mumbai.

“These days a player hits a six and starts dancing and celebrating like he’s won a World Cup. And the fans too do the same and they’re joined in by the cheerleaders. Nobody anymore appreciates a perfectly timed straight-drive or a nicely placed square-cut. All they want is tamasha (entertainment) with music and cheerleaders,” explains Thakur.

The ‘back in my day’ tone to their lament is understandable. Bhalekar and Thakur of course belong to an era where crowds used to swarm into the Wankhede to watch Ranji Trophy matches.

But while the number of spectators has dwindled considerably to pittance these days for domestic matches,tickets for IPL are in incessant demand despite being available at a premium.

“Because they pay so much for the tickets,they think they are the kings and can get away with even misbehaving. They are not genuine cricket fans. And it’s not surprising that many of the former cricketers stay away from these matches to avoid being subject to such a farcical atmosphere,” adds Thakur.

In addition to the changing demographics of the people filling up the Wankhede,the IPL has also created a class-divide in the stands,according to Bhalekar.

“The lower-middle class and middle-class have no chance of entering the stadium for the IPL even in the East (Sunil Gavaskar) Stand,which used to have the cheapest tickets. I remember going to a Test match against West Indies in 1967 and paying Rs 40 for a ticket.

“Those days,we didn’t mind sweating it out for hours to score tickets or getting our shirts torn in the melee to enter the ground. The fans during the IPL are pampered and do not realize the worth of being there,” adds Bhalekar.

This is not the first time that the abusive side of the Wankhede crowd has reared its ugly head. The unthinkable occurred in 2006 when Sachin Tendulkar was booed and jeered following a cheap dismissal against England in a Test match.

Prior to Kohli,visiting foreign teams too have often complained about the overtly offensive attitude of the fans here. And their latest indiscretion has only embellished the notorious reputation of the Wankhede Stadium posse.

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