World Cup 2019: Festive spirit in lead-up to India’s first match

On Wednesday, with Team India getting its World Cup campaign underway against South Africa; the hype, drama and colour that permeates India’s cricketing sojourns, was on full view.

The Indian flag was waved with gusto, the team t-shirt was the common attire and balti curries, both chicken and vegetarian, were stirred in steaming cauldrons at take-away joints.   -  REUTERS

The days leading up to India’s first World Cup game against South Africa at the Hampshire Oval, lacked buzz. A few banners at city junctions and the odd query from a taxi driver about the latest scores, were the only hints that cricket’s show-piece event was on in the United Kingdom. But on Wednesday, the hype, drama and colour that permeates India’s cricketing sojourns, was on full view.

Uber, the taxi-aggregator, sensing a rise in demand, hiked its rates. And as various correspondents headed towards the venue, fans were milling on all roads, be it the ones skirting past quaint tiled homes with their flower beds outside or the winding black ribbon cutting through the woods which akin to what Robert Frost once wrote, are lovely, dark and deep.

And as the scribes went past Marshall Drive, a pathway in honour of the late West Indian pace legend Malcolm Marshall, who also turned out for the local county Hampshire, a sea of blue greeted the eyes. The Indian flag was waved with gusto, the team t-shirt was the common attire and balti curries, both chicken and vegetarian, were stirred in steaming cauldrons at take-away joints.

Finally it felt like a big game was truly on and the Indian Diaspora cheered Virat Kohli’s men as they limbered up, yelled ‘Dada’ on sighting Sourav Ganguly, and sought his fellow commentator Harbhajan Singh’s autographs. There was no dearth of cheeky one-liners, often scribbled across banners and one read: “Kohli is at the wheel, tell me how good does it feel?” A cheeky wag quipped: “The World Cup has finally begun.” It indeed has.