The business end
As cricket fans make their way to the stadium, they are approached by face painters and t-shirt sellers. Among thse fans, kids and youngsters are most eager to get their faces painted and get a t-shirt or cap of their favourite team.
With the stadium having more than 14 gates, every IPL match is like a mini market for sellers. While some of them sit outside the security perimeter, some sit inside the area.
Palak from Mumbai has been coming to Mohali for every IPL match since eight years and the 31-year-old also travels to places like Delhi and Jaipur to sell t-shirts and caps of different teams. “We often travel in trains to save money and chalk out our travel plans once the IPL schedule is finalised. Fans start reaching the stadium 3-4 hours prior to the match and we have to set up our kiosks before that. We get the t-shirts and caps in bulk from Delhi or Ludhiana so that we don’t have to order between matches. The home team supporters are more in numbers but there is always a demand for the teams that are not even playing that day’s match. Most of the fans ask for Chennai Super Kings or Kolkata Knight Riders t-shirts and sometimes we run out of the stock for these two teams. The only problem we face is of lack of proper set up for our stalls and due to security. IPL is like a fair to us and there should be some reserved spaces for us to sell the goods too,” shared Palak.
There are more than 25 sellers like Palak outside the stadium and more than 30 face painters. The number of customers varies for each of them. 57-year-old Mahesh Saini has been coming to Mohali during IPL for last ten years. Otherwise a labourer, he travels to places like Delhi, Jaipur and Mohali, every IPL season for painting fans’ faces.
“One has to be patient as well quick in this art. Most of the clients are kids and we have to apply the paint in quick time as there is a short window with the fans moving as quickly as possible inside the stadium to watch the match. This year, all the home matches of KXIP are happening at Mohali and it means good business to us,” shares Saini.
With the stadium having a seating capacity of 28,000, there are more than 50 food stalls inside the stadium providing burgers, pizzas, kulchas and ice-creams. The vendors are selected through a tender by Punjab Cricket Association. The prices at these stalls, however, are high according to customers.
“The tickets for an IPL match are getting expensive every year. The food items provided at the stadium are 30-50 percent more expensive than their price outside. There should be a regulation on the price of food,” shared Rajesh Goyal, a resident of Mohali, who came to see the match between Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals. Outside the stadium, the nearby markets of Phase X and surrounding areas see the presence of more than 50 eating joints at the stadium. IPL season means a brisk business for these joints for a small duration of time as the regular customers prefer staying away due to high security arrangements. “Business is not as usual during IPL matches here. Yes, more than 28,000 fans come to see the match but most of them have their food inside the stadium as they cannot re-enter the stadium. Once the match ends, there is rush at eating joints in the market and that’s the highest sale point for the day for us. Our regular customers stay away during match days as there is too much of security,” said one of the owners of the eating joints in Phase X market.
The ground scenario
With Kings XI Punjab playing seven home matches at I S Bindra PCA Stadium in this year’s IPL season, it is for the first time in five years that the stadium is hosting more than five matches. Hosting all home matches means that the PCA pitch staff has to make the pitches and ground to last the whole season in accordance with IPL standards. The stadium has won an award for ‘best ground’ seven out of ten times for four or less matches.
Daljit Singh, chief curator, PCA, works along with 11 of his staff members and 15 hired workers to prepare the pitches and grounds for and during IPL. “The cricket season starts in September in India. IPL starts almost towards the end of cricket season and just when pitches and grass outfield are nearing their end of the season. This year, we are hosting all seven home matches and it made our task difficult. We did not conduct any matches one month prior to IPL so that the pitches and ground are in good shape. Nowadays, good fungicides and fertilisers are available for maintaining the standard of pitches. We prepared four pitches for this IPL season and all the pitches have been used so far. Unlike other stadiums, the pitches here offer good bounce and it means the matches are high scoring. I have 11 staff members, apart from 15 hired workers for IPL. It is their hard work and dedication that we are able to provide such kind of outfield and have won the award for best ground so many times,” said Singh.
IPL also means that more than 30 cricket trainees from nearby academies are given a chance to bowl in the nets, apart from trainees working as ball boys during these matches. A total of nine ball boys officiate in a IPL match at the stadium and 16-year-old Gyan Singh is one of them. The DAV School (Lahore), Chandigarh, student is at the stadium two hours prior to the match and is among the last persons to leave the stadium after his ball duties. “This is the first time that I am officiating as ball boy. The duty means that we have to be alert throughout the match as the ball can come towards us at anytime. We see the action from close and it also helps our game. Seeing Indian and international players train and field in real match situations also helps us to understand their game and how to do play better during our matches. My favourite player in IPL is Rohit Sharma and officiating in that match was a special feeling for me,” shared Gyan Singh.
A 32-member Punjab Police team, led by Navreet Singh Virk, DSP Traffic, Mohali, manages the inside boundary of PCA ground. The police personnel, who wear track suits, have been officiating in IPL matches and international matches since 5-6 years. and are responsible for keeping a track on things near the boundary and inside the gates. During the match between Kings XI Punjab and Royal Challengers Bengaluru, fan jumped the pit and ran inside the boundary to shake hands with Virat Kohli. He was chased by the Punjab Police team. “Apart from seeing what happens on the boundary, we also have to make sure that fans don’t shout any bad slogans or racist comments regarding cricketers. Some of the police staff on the boundaries are sportspersons as well. We coordinate with police officers in the stands, if a fan behaves badly. Apart from that, we also have to be with players and officials as they enter or exit the pavilion and prevent fans from touching or approaching them,” shared Virk.
With the stadium having more than 20 enclosures for VIPs and elite lounges in the South Pavillion and North Pavillion, the hospitality staff for IPL is extremely busy during the match.
A team of 32-staff members forms the hospitality division of a private firm, DNA Entertainment, for managing VIP boxes and elite lounges during the match. The work involves checking entry passes, handing out wrist bands and overseeing food arrangements. Most of the 32 staff members are students that are working part-time for the season. “I am officiating for the first time as a member of the hospitality staff. We have to follow the rules associated with tickets and passes entry and we have to be polite with the fans. Sometimes, fans come and try to enter a stand or lounge for which they don’t have tickets and we stop them politely and ask the coordinators to handle them. Some of the fans can be rude but we handle them with patience. Working in a tournament like IPL has helped our confidence. We also manage the boxes of owners and KXIP team co-owner, Mohit Burman, along with his guests,”shared Ayesha Iram, a 24-year-old student of MA in food and nutrition from Panjab University.
Another member of the hospitality staff, Rushali Singh, a student of UIFT, Panjab University, is officiating in the pavilion block near team dressing rooms and has found this experience a learning one. “Even though we get to see the players up close, we have to do our job with full sincerity. Sometimes, people try to enter the players’ lounge after the match ends. We tell them politely not to do so. During one match, a person, who said he was a big businessman, entered the pavilion despite us trying to stopped him. We informed our security staff and he was taken out of premises a minute later,” shares Singh.
This year has seen Kings XI Punjab management hiring DNA Entertainment Network to manage in-house security and other hospitality arrangements at the stadium. The company worked with four IPL teams prior to working with KXIP. A total of 25 staff members, apart from other personnel, manage works including creatives, entertainment, LED’s, cheerleaders and private security arrangements at the stadium. “The hospitality staff was selected after interviews. Many of them had an experience of working in events like marathons and fashion events before and we held some training sessions for those who did not. There are all kinds of people who come to watch the match and most of them are from sponsors’ side, BCCI and other departments. We tell the staff to be polite unless there is a very serious situation. Working with four teams previously has helped us too a lot,” shared Anna Chowdhury, operations manager at DNA Entertainment.
The fan quotient
The sight of Vinod Bhatt and his team, playing the dhol and making bolis of names of Kings XI Punjab players and coaching staff, has been a regular feature in this year’s home matches. Creating bolis like wari wari khatan gaya si, khat ke layandi rail, bhangra tan sajda je nache Punjab da sher Chris Gayle and singing team’s anthem, the six-member team under Bhatt performs in every home match of the team.
From welcoming the home team bus to performing in stadium for each boundary and a six, the dhol team has done it all this season. “It is our fourth year of performing with Kings XI Punjab and the experience has been worth remembering. While we have worked with Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Daredevils earlier, the fact that the dhol is associated with Punjab makes us perform with more vigour. Sometimes, we make bolis in ten minutes according to each player. The best dancer and performer from KXIP team has been Chris Gayle. He makes sure that he dances with us and always compares us to the drummers of West Indies. He gave me his cap after one match as well. Apart from him, David Miller is a good dancer. During last few matches, skipper R Ashwin also joined them to dance,” shares Bhatt before he once again leads his team to play the beats.
Prior to the match between Kings XI Punjab and Royal Challengers Bengaluru, 31-year-old cricket fan, Nitin Jain from Ambala, was eager to meet Indian team captain and RCB captain, Virat Kohli. Jain, who has made sketches of Sachin Tendulkar for more than a decade, made sketches of Kohli and South African player, AB de Villiers. He also got an opportunity to present the cricketers their sketches.
“While the International matches happen once or twice in an year at Mohali, IPL gives us an opportunity to see cricketers in action for more than five matches in two months time. I made a sketch of MS Dhoni earlier and presented it to him during an ODI in 2017. After Sachin sir retired, I have made sketches of other Indian cricketers. Virat Kohli is the best cricketers in the world right now and meeting him was a special feeling. IPL also sees the presence of some of world’s best cricketers. I also plan to make another sketch of MS Dhoni and present it to him during Chennai Super Kings match at Mohali in May,” shared Jain.
IPL witnesses a large group of fans. This year, Kings XI Punjab’s management started a campaign for KXIP fan squad. More than 600 fans were a part of this campaign and they can be spotted cheering for them team in every match.
”We thought of forming a fan group prior to this season of IPL. We have the support of more than 600 fans online and we expect the number to grow. The way Chris Gayle and KL Rahul have batted, apart from R Ashwin, has given the fans plenty to cheer about, We hope that the team reaches play-offs this season,” said Udayveer, a members of KXIP fan squad.