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   At Eden Gardens in the past... (February 22, 1996)

At Eden Gardens in the past, Cuttack recently, and last night at Gwalior, the crowds showed how could contribute to India's victories by throwing water bottles, making faces for the TV cameras, lighting bonfires, etc. Since no international cricket has been played in Mumbai for a long time, the Wankhede Stadium authorities are worried if our crowds will be upto the expected standards.

I was talking to Mr. Ravi Mandrekar of the Mumbai Cricket Association this morning. "It is a serious problem," he said. "We do not want the world to say that India lost at the Wankhede because the crowd did not know how to light bon-fires with old newspapers."

"We certainly do not want anybody to say that," I said. "You think our crowd has not learnt by watching on TV the behaviour of crowds at other centes?"

"I do not know,"Mr. Mandrekar said."You must understand that ours is a more gentle crowd, used to applauding at the end of a maiden over. At the most, they run out on to the field to garland Vinod Kambli for completing 50, nothing more than that."

"You can't expect India to win with that kind of crowd support," I said. "What's the solution?"

"There's not much time, but we are planning to have a small coaching camp for our crowds. We will be inviting representative of crowds for Calcutta, Gwalior and Ahmedabad to teach our crowds how to encourage our team and demoralise the opposition."

"That's an excellent idea," I said. "Who thought it up."

"The president of the Mumbai Cricket Association," Mr. Mandrekar said."Attendance at the camp will be compulsory and tickets for the match will be issued to only those who attend it."

"How will the camp function?"

"It will be a one-day camp, day and night. The first session will be held in the daylight, then the lights will be turned on for the night session. The crowds will be shown how to create smoke screens to make it difficult for the cricketers to play. They will also be taught how to jump and dance around the fires."

"The whole world will see on its TV screen our people doing the victory dance in front of fires, how wonderful," I said.

"Yes," said Mr. Mandrekar. "Anything that Captain Roop Singh Stadium can do, Wankhede can do better. The public will be frisked at the entrance to the stands to check they are all carrying placards showing the figures Ď4' and'6í. Anybody without them will have to purchase one at the site."

"What about acting before the TV cameras?"

"Certainly. The best actors among the crowds will be placed at strategic positions in the stadium, so that every time the camera turns to them they can make faces."

"And what about throwing water bottles at opposition fielders?" I asked.

"Only plastic bottles will be allowed to be thrown. We have a reputation of sportmanship at the Wankhede Stadium," Mr. Mandrekar said.

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