Thursday, April 10, 2014

Field of dreams

On his blog, Harsha Bhogle waxed nostalgic about Fateh Maidan.

(© Getty Images)
Harsha's memories of the stadium are from an insider's perspective, since he had access as a commentator long after he ceased visiting it as a spectator.
The Lal Bahadur Stadium was like that to us, except that nobody called it by that name. It was always the Fateh Maidan or the “stadium”. It was holy, it was the home of cricket, it was ours. I saw my first match there, played on a turf wicket there for the first time and my first commentary session was there too. Do I give the impression that the pillars spoke to me? I might have thought it was so…once.
Around that time I had first set foot in the commentary box, like the dressing room, a much hyped place made special only by the people within it. All of 19 and wearing a twenty rupee t-shirt, a pair of jeans and rubber slippers, I had done my audition there. It was where Shyam Karwande and HK Srinivas sat and talked about the “Hill Fort End”, Naubat Pahad to everyone else. In my audition I said “Hill Fort End” and felt special too.
It called me back often and I grew to like the little area, only a little bigger than a cubicle with two wide windows we looked through. It was where the first step had been taken, it was mine
My memories are more of the Fateh Maidan Club, whose Tandoori chicken and parantha are unmatched in my memory. I guess I was spoiled at a young age - I have never been able to enjoy either of those food items since then as what I have pales in significance with the FMC items. Even after all these years, I  can still taste them, if that makes sense.

I watched a few matches at Fateh Maidan. Two stand out in memory. There was a game against the Australians where RP Singh (the other one) began his international career with a maiden over and little else about his bowling was remarkable. Australia batted first, Bruce Reid read a Sidney Sheldon book (for once I had good seats in a section right next to the Australian players), and a torrential downpour forced the match to be abandoned soon after my hero, Mohammad Azharuddin, came in to bat. I walked home from there as I did not feel like fighting the crowd at the bus stop and I was already soaking wet. Back then it did not seem too far away to walk home. Those of you who know the distance will know it took me a while to do so. And it rained all the way home!

The second one against the Kiwis holds better cricketing memories for me - I got to watch Azharuddin play a sublime innings filled with boundaries, Richard Hadlee found swing where no one else did, and Arshad Ayub pleased the locals with a few wickets. That inning of Azhar's was enough to fill me with a lifetime of good memories and thoughts about the fellow, all his subsequent (alleged) shenanigans notwithstanding.

Sitting at the far end of the ground, diametrically opposite to the FMC end, I did not know then that my life would change in a few months. I have never been to an international match at a stadium since. In hindsight, I am glad that those days at Fateh Maidan remain my last memories of a day spent watching a Test match.

P.S. Here is another recollection of the glory days of Fateh Maidan from former South Zone offspinner V Ramnarayan.