Far away from the loud cheers of fans celebrating the Indian team’s ongoing campaign in the World Cup 2023, there lies a quiet city, Mohali, soaking in the impending winter chill that has already begun to show up as soon as the sun begins to set.
PCA IS Bindra Stadium, a ground that hosted India’s semifinal triumph against Pakistan in its successful 2011 World Cup crusade, wasn’t part of the nine venues for this year’s quadrennial event.
It has been, however, chosen to host the knockout stage of India’s premier T20 domestic tournament, Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2023.
Despite several young stars – including Abhishek Sharma, Riyan Parag, Arshdeep Singh, and Rinku Singh to name a few—playing in the tournament, the crowd turnout has been underwhelming.
“Don’t know why they (Punjab Cricket Association) don’t allow people to watch the games,” a security guard at the entry gate said. “People do come from even Karnal and Panipat to watch the match. I feel sad for stopping them from entering, but I can’t do much,” he said further.
During the semifinals here on Saturday, the crowd did come to watch home team Punjab play Delhi, and, in the evening, a few attended Baroda taking on Assam - sitting in the only two open areas - Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh pavilion.
“They don’t promote it well,” the guard wondered.
But for Riyaz, who works in the stadium’s kitchen, these are the only games that he can watch in peace.
“Yahi par kaam kar rahe lekin ek bar aa nahi sake (I work here but haven’t been able to watch the game),” Riyaz, 20, said, explaining how hectic it gets during the Indian Premier League (IPL) and International matches. There was a smirk when asked if he’s happy that no World Cup game is happening in Mohali.
Apart from the stadium workers relaxing and giving a running commentary from the stands, a few outsiders too came to watch the games, and one of them was Narendra Singh with his five-year-old daughter.
“I watched the Punjab match from the Yuvraj Singh stand and now I’ve come here (Harbhajan Singh pavilion),” Narendra, who himself plays cricket for his company CAG, said while clicking a photograph of his daughter with a picturesque background view of the ground.
“Let’s see which sport she likes as she grows. I’m thinking of sending her to a badminton academy,” he said.
It is one thing to come and watch a domestic game and another to get a glimpse of them training ahead of the game. Sanjeev Kumar, 21, was the only one present, looking at the Punjab team train.
“I’ve bunked my office to come here,” Sanjeev, who works in a call centre, said. “I can watch any game,” he added.
“I used to play for Barnala U19 team but my parents didn’t allow me to pursue cricket as a career. Still hurts to see my kit bag lying around,” Sanjeev said wistfully while wondering why Mohali didn’t get a World Cup game.
At a time when the fans are jamming the roads, trying to get a glimpse of the Indian team, people here in Mohali are contented with having a pleasant time watching a bunch of upcoming stars write their future. “Punjab loves its sports,” Narendra said as he clapped looking at Assam scoring another boundary.
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