Chiranjeevi,the actor turned politician,has an enormous fan following in this part of the world. Gigantic posters of the once matinee stars films and hoardings of the Praja Rajyam Party leader his current role litter every nook and corner of Visakhapatnam. Even the citys cricket stadiums arent spared.
Everyone who walked into the Port Trust Diamond Jubilee Stadium on Saturday got a close look at the most famous moustache in Andhra Pradesh. With close to a hundred Chiranjeevis pinned up from the outer gate to the mouth of the cricket ground,fans paid their obeisance to the star. Hanuman Vihari Gade,the India under-19 batsman from Hyderabad,was one of them.
He stared at a hoarding for a while,then lugged his kit bag and walked towards the arena to take on the waiting West Indians. And as soon as Vihari stepped on to the field with his bat in hand,the lad received what the locals call as the Chiranjeevi treatment,here in Andhra Pradesh.
As Vihari marked his crease,a banquet of shrill whistles filled the air,while empty plastic bottles thudded against the concrete steps in a rhythmic beat. And as soon as he stroked his first boundary,shouts of Superstar Vihari,Superstar Chiranjeevi resonated in a loop across the scenic stadium.
I couldnt believe it. I used to go for his films,whistling and screaming his name in the theatres. To believe I was put in the same bracket is unbelievable, says Vihari,who doesnt consider any of the present Tollywood actors worth his attention. They just dont make like Chiranjeevi anymore.
While a brilliantly crafted 68 by the No.3 batsman helped the cause,the fact that the locals knew he was one of them only amplified the effect. Im the only player from Andhra Pradesh in this side,and they would have come out to voice their support, the 18-year old adds.
The cricket loving locals,though,were present in big numbers after his knock against Sri Lanka had made headlines in the regional newspapers. If Vihari set up the game against the West Indies,he almost single-handedly pulled India out of the hole against Lanka earlier in the week with his 51. I was dismissed 30 runs short of victory,and couldnt stop kicking myself. But the moment the winning runs were scored,I forgot all about the tension and the worries, he adds.
A gifted batsman with all the wristy Hyderabadi traits in him,Vihari has already made Ranji Trophy debut last year,and hopes that more such knocks will help him cement his place in the side in the upcoming season. (VVS) Laxman bhai is closely following my progress,and I want to continue impressing him with more such innings, Vihari says.
But does it bother him that both his fifties were overshadowed by other bludgeoning cameos? Not at all,I will never feel that way. As the No.3 batsman,my job is to give the innings a spine. I know my limitations in that role,and hence I perform accordingly,trying my best each time I go out to bat he says,before adding,I dont need to hit sixes to achieve glory. That,though,has already been achieved. In Chiranjeevi-land,a young lad took his first steps towards stardom.