7:10am was preparation time. As much water as you could consume. Stretching. A banana. Finding clothes that would be appropriate for the task ahead.
It takes 15 minutes of walking to arrive at the corporation school ground. Once you walk over the newly planted sand dunes, you arrive at a grassless multipurpose sports area where five games of cricket are being played concurrently.
Slowly the ESPNcricinfo employees arrive, most walking, some on motorbikes. Teams are picked. The heavier-than-normal-special-made-for-cricket tennis ball is selected, stumps are placed at one end, a stone at the other. It’s an eight-over game.
The first game has casualties. A very senior member of editorial staff runs a six, but only five are counted. He leaves soon after. A diving caught-and-bowled chance that few remember seeing is attempted by a young member of the staff. Later he tries to throw the ball in and realises he has hurt his elbow. His two elbows don’t even resemble each other. It turns out he has broken his elbow, which rules him out of office cricket for months and the office for two weeks. A key member of the staff has injured his knee, but he plays on like a dog that refuses to admit it has lost its hind leg.
In the second game the heat gets nasty, tempers flare, one person from the video department abuses another for not stopping a two. The chase is handled easily. This frustrates the bowling side more. Two men laugh as they use play equipment as a makeshift gym.
Back at the office, meetings are had. Big future plans are discussed. Budgets are debated. Website and cricket stats are discussed. Google hangouts are watched.
Then it’s IPL time.
An eternal queue lines up at gate 9, Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru. Near the gate are police officers with sticks. Cane for the men, plastic for the women. They punish any queue-jumpers. There aren’t enough police officers, though, as the queue won’t die. It goes beyond the bridge, past the tax office, around the corner and down the road.
The face-painters run at punters with their paint at the ready. More as a threat than a service. One, wearing a Kings XI Punjab shirt, is a Marcus Trescothick fan. He does a more-than-okay Mark Nicholas impersonation.
There are as many bootleg shirts, hats and flags as the eye can see. All of questionable quality and cheap, but extremely enthusiastically sold.
Back up the road, around the corner, past the tax office, over the bridge and within sight of gate 9, the queue-jumpers come in. Sweaty men who thrust their bodies up against yours like they are about to steal a wallet. They don’t want money, just your place in the queue. A place that took 45 minutes in the heat. The queue-jumpers receive angry looks, passive-aggressive abuse and the odd elbow in the ribs.
The first person to touch the groin at the ground does so fleetingly just inside the gate. People have to get in the game. Kolkata have already lost a wicket. It’s a fleeting touch rather than a secure pat-down.
The second person to touch is at the stand. They too have a backlog of people, so they check there are things in pockets – there are – and that is all they want to know.
At the third touch point, the security guard pats once and then moves the queue on forcibly.
At the fourth, the guard thinks everyone there has been checked so many times he barely touches at all. Four security checks, but no actual checking.
Kolkata are already batting. Their boundaries get cheered in certain parts of the ground. Some of those have KKR fans there, others have KKR cheerleaders in front of them.
The rest of the crowd cheers: “We want six, we want six”. Unfortunately, when a crowd says the word “six”, it sounds more like “sex”, which puts a dark cloud on them all screaming it at once
One cheerleader wears a cap. It makes her look like a tennis player with two walk-on girls beside her.
The KKR innings limps forward on a great batting pitch against an ordinary bowling line-up.
Beer is consumed in a room with a TV, chips, a couch and fans during the boring middle overs.
The scoreboard tells little. KKR are batting, but there is no record of who batted before, or what bowlers have overs left. The scoreboard ignores highlights, lowlights, or anything worth seeing again. It does have words like “awesome”, “devastating” and “Oh!”. The cricket exists in front right now, or it doesn’t exist at all.
KKR finish their batting. Music is played. Loud.
Chris Gayle walks in with a mortal. The music can’t compete with the sound for Gayle.
The mortal goes out and Virat Kohli and Gayle bat together. They knock the new ball around, play it safe, the crowd sees it otherwise.
When Kohli does something good they chant his name. “Kohli, Kohli”, but it sounds like a crowd of drunken Jack Whites singing the start of “Jolene” in a smoky honky-tonk.
Jacques Kallis slows Kohli down, and to spice things up, a drummer hits the beat of the RCB chant, which goes “R-C-B”, “R-C-B”. The crowd doesn’t care about the chant. It also doesn’t react to the maiden. The spectators are, however, entertained when bad animations of players doing Gangnam Style appear.
Chris Gayle hits a six. The crowd chants “R.C.B”, “R.C.B”, and “R.C.B”.
Bangalore are killing the contest on the field, but off the field the competition for who can cheer the longest after a boundary is hotting up.
Kohli is dismissed and then dissed by Gautam Gambhir. Kohli fronts up to him. The crowd has absolutely no idea what has happened, but it completely takes the side of Kohli.
The dismissal of Kohli never makes the replay screen, but a man with a digitally added sponsor blow-up hat does.
Bangalore are so far in front one man applauds two leaves from Gayle.
The rest of the crowd cheers: “We want six, we want six”. Unfortunately, when a crowd says the word “six”, it sounds more like “sex”, which puts a dark cloud on them all screaming it at once.
A bunch of fans say, “That’s out.” It is not given. Neither is a replay. The ball ceases to exist.
The ground announcer starts a Mexican wave. The crowd joins in. It then gets faster and faster, until whole stands are rising at once. Sunil Narine keeps two of the world’s best batsmen to few runs, but the crowd is besotted by its own uniformed magnificence.
At a strategic time-out, one set of KKR cheerleaders refuses to get up. Perhaps discussing future choreography that can inspire their team.
Gayle hits the last ball so hard that had the crowd had been mid-way through a Mexican wave, it would have knocked someone over.
Back to the office in time for a cameo on the Huddle while wearing silly promotional IPL beer goggles. Some more meetings. Some writing. Instagram of the day’s photos. Check local Pizza Hut menu. Go to local Pizza Hut. Man at the counter guesses correctly that pepperoni will be ordered.
At the Pizza Hut, no one is frisked.