India Uncut

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Sunday, January 08, 2006

Trees watching games

Who would have thought an India-Pakistan series could start in such a tranquil environment? India's solitary tour game before the Test matches begin is against a Pakistan A team brimming with players on the verge of getting into, or getting back into, the Pakistan side. But if the players are tense, everyone else is chilled out. The venue has much to do with that.

Modern cricket is being played more and more in large concrete shells, but the romance of the game is evoked by open spaces, green grass, trees all around, the horizon a meeting of earth and sky, not cement and sky. Bagh-e-Jinnah in Lahore, where this game is played, is just such an old-styled venue. We reach the wrong gate in the morning, and find ourselves having to take a long walk through a park to get there, cops hanging around in considerable numbers, but not stopping us or asking questions, with some people jogging. (No lovers sitting together, alas.) Then we reach the ground itself, opposite a library that looks like a miniature version of the White House, get our press passes organised, and enter.

The ground is just a ground, nothing else. There are no stands. There are trees all along its perimeter, like silent spectators taking in the unnatural beauty of humans and their sport. People stand alongside the boundary and the trees, and watch. There's lots of green, much sky, and the press box, which is thankfully unboxlike, is also open-air, with the top covered by cloth, like a shamiana-kind-of-thing. The players are in a clubhouse on the side. All very nice and mid-20th-century.

Of course, the Test series begins not here but at the Gaddafi Stadium on the 13th. And that will be anything but tranquil.

(Click on pics below to enlarge. The first one is of photographers at the boundary, the second a view of long-off, with the press box right after the sightscreen and the clubhouse for the players just beyond.)

amit varma, 12:46 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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