There was a particularly loud cheer in the stands at the Seddon Park when New Zealand pinch-hitter Corey Anderson walked out to bat in Wednesday’s ODI against India.
After a two-hour rain break, with fewer than seven overs to go, the spectators were hoping to get their money’s worth — and maybe, some money as well.
A lot of money actually — 100,000 NZ dollars (about Rs 52 lakh) to be precise — through a promotional scheme which required them to catch with one hand any hit sailing past the fence.
And by the time he walked back to the pavilion, the potential IPL millionaire, Anderson, had left a 22-year-old Indian origin New Zealander richer beyond his dreams. His fourth six, which came off Ishant Sharma, nestled in Jatinder Singh’s right hand on the embankment beyond the long-on fence.
As the stadium roared, TV cameras zoomed in on an ecstatic Jatinder who was now surrounded by fellow spectators. The youngster’s life, as he knew it, had changed.
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“To be honest, I got up and didn’t think it was going to make it as far as me. I thought it was going to land short, so then I sort of gave up on it, and then it kept going and next thing I know it was in my right hand. Really, it happened so fast. I started jumping up and down, that’s not me. Normally I am quite reserved,” said Jatinder, a fourth-generation Indian whose roots are in Punjab.
His father own a farm in Te Aroha near Hamilton, while his mother, who is from Amritsar, is a housewife. As he was being whisked away to the clubhouse for the confirmation, the crowd gave the youngster a big applause. People who had never known him walked up to him to shake hands and congratulate. Jatinder went about it as if he was dazed. The feeling hadn’t quite sunk in.
“I was sort of buzzing a little bit, waiting for the confirmation. Someone said it may take up to 24 hours, thank goodness I came in two hours…I have no idea what I’ll do with this money. Maybe a new car. I am sick of my car. Maybe I’ll also pay my students loan with that. But honestly I have no idea,” said the youngster, who is a management student at Waikato University.
The scheme that made it happen, ‘Catch-a-Million’, was launched by beer brand Tui for the 10 ODIs starting with the New Zealand-West Indies match on December 26.
One of the requirements is that participants have to come to a match wearing the official orange-coloured Tui T-shirt. Only 250 shirts are sold from the merchandise store at the venue of each match. However, they can also be bought online.
Jatinder is the second person to take the 100,000 dollar catch after Michael Morton caught a Kieran Powell-hit during the New Zealand-West Indies game, also in Hamilton, on January 8. Jatinder was also at Seddon Park that day.
“I came to the West Indies game. I went to the official merchandise store and they had only one T-shirt left. I think I might have pushed someone to grab that last shirt. As soon as I got up there in the stands, some guy caught it. I said I can’t win today, what we can do is hope. I came again today. Here it is, one-hundred-thousand dollars,” Jatinder said beaming.
On Wednesday, after waiting for some time and watching sixes being hit in all directions but his, Jatinder suggested to his friend they should sit at some other place. “He said, ‘nah, we’re good here’. Definitely, I owe him a beer or two.”
He owes a lot to two other people as well. “I should have thanked Corey actually. I do owe him a lot. And I owe a lot to the bowler as well. So thank you, Ishant Sharma.” Catch-a-Million has brought spectators out in large numbers. Thanks to the multitude wearing orange, the matches in Napier and Hamilton have looked like they are being played between India and Netherlands.
And while there have been two catches, there have been many more drops. But the most so-near-yet-so-far story happened in Napier. At McLean Park on Sunday, one spectator had claimed a single-handed catch. Just that he hadn’t bothered to spend $30 on the T-shirt before doing so.