Back in November 2011, when I saw the Black Caps schedule on http://www.blackcaps.co.nz/, I had decided that I wouldn't miss a chance to get a picture with the Kiwis and the Proteas.
That day finally came on March 17, 2012, when I and Yogi went to Hamilton see my friends there. We had already decided that we would all be going to see the test match at Seddon Park there. The single day ticket was only $15 but Sandeep and Saurabh put a lot of effort in arranging the tickets from their colleagues and eventually we all got free tickets to the match.
I reached the stadium at around 10:15 in morning and others came after 1-2 hours. Meanwhile, the match had already been started. Kiwis were in a fragile position already with their 4 wickets down overnight and looking to consolidate their lead over the South Africans.
On entering the ground, there was a usual security check after I got my ticket scanned. The interesting thing was that the security person didn't even touch my bag which I was carrying with me. They asked me to show them all the stuff in my hands and without and further probing, they let me in.
As soon as I entered the stadium, I saw the pavilion stands, with all the exclusive pass holders sitting in there and enjoying free drinks and meals in the ground, benefits of being a member. Anyways, I started my operation. I took out my camera and then started clicking the pics. Now for a 4x zoom point and shoot camera, the picture quality was quite good, rather exceptional I’d say, because of the clear sunny day.
I saw Philander standing on the boundary at the deep square leg position and didn't hesitate in going to him and congratulating him for his success in the first innings. Meanwhile, I also clicked one pic of him.
Then I walked around the oval and tried to find all the vantage points as if I was Agent Vinod, looking for a villain. I sat in the stands for some time and clicked pics in an intermittent manner. It was a breezy day with good sunlight.
After an hour or so at the entrance of the stadium, I saw friends coming and then we sat on the embankments stands and relaxed for some time. Meanwhile, Vettori got out and the stadium went a bit silent. Then lunch time came and the players went inside the pavilion.
During the lunch time, some events had been organised for the kids present there. They were called inside the stadium and had a small activity, with cricket balls, which was sponsored by The National Bank, the official sponsor of the event. I was wondering if that could happen ever in an Indian stadium.
Then the stadium fence was opened for all of the spectators to just move inside and have a look at the pitch, although from a distance. We saw Billy Bowden who was the 3rd or 4th umpire for the game, walking and talking to the people present near the pitch.
After that, we went outside for lunch. We roamed around the city, had lunch, did some shopping and after an hour or so we moved back into the stadium. I was a bit shocked to see the Kiwi’s innings had folded by that time and the Proteas were batting. They had a target of 101 runs which seemed quite easily reachable in the same batting session as they were batting briskly. So I thought of seeing the rest of the match from the pavilion end in order to catch a glimpse of the cricketers.
As expected Proteas completed the chase, with the loss of only 1 wicket in less than 20 overs and won the match. It was followed by handshakes by all the members of both the teams and slowly the players went inside the pavilion. I could click only some pics as I was standing quite far away from the pavilion entry.
Immediately after the win, some players from the South African team came out and started playing rugby. It was interesting to see them play that.
We waited just in front of the pavilion entrance for the players to come out so that we could have pics with them but it didn’t happen. The security persons told us to move out since the players were not coming out.
We were a bit disappointed and went out. In a span of 15 minutes, the stadium was totally empty and all the entrances were closed. We thought that the players must be getting out soon and won’t be staying inside the pavilion forever.
So we decided to wait in front of the stadium gate. There were only 2 of us, 10-12 other Indian boys and 2-3 Kiwi people keen to meet the cricketers in person. We had to wait for a long time and with each passing moment we were thinking that we are making fools of ourselves by standing here in the sun.
Eventually, after an hour or so the Kiwi players started coming out one by one. First of all Mark Richardson, the former black cap and a current member of the commentary team came out. Some people who recognised him got an autograph from him and some pics clicked.
Then we saw the umpires coming out. We saw Billy Doctrove, Aleem Dar and Billy Bowden coming out. People thronged every one of them for pics. I got myself clicked with Aleem Dar in a group. Then as Billy Bowden was just starting to sit in his car and move away, I just went to him and requested him for a pic.
He agreed very easily and struck his famous twisted finger pose while Yogi clicked my photograph with him. He is a cheerful guy I must say, I told him I was from India and he smiled. Then we saw Martin Guptill and John Wright coming out of the gate. People thronged Martin and asked for a pic, to which he agreed too. :)
I also got myself clicked with him and then I saw no one had recognised John Wright, good for me, I thought. I went to him while he was just about to move away and asked him for a pic. He too agreed and while getting clicked, I told him what a great coach he was for India. He smiled and then went away in his car.
Then we saw Ross Taylor coming out and we got our pics with him too. New players e.g. Rob Nicol, Kane Williamson were not recognised by many people present there, therefore I got a chance to talk to Kane. After clicking a pic with him, I congratulated him for his innings of 77 in the match and wished him best of luck for the coming match.
Then from the other gate, I saw Gary Kirsten coming out. How could I miss him?
All people ran towards him. He was busy with his kids and family so he requested to wait for some time. We waited and saw him see off his family to the hotel and then he came to us. People got his autograph and we got a pic with him. I said that he would be remembered forever for the Indian World Cup victory while he was the coach. He acknowledged it. :)
Then we saw Vettori coming out. What a gem of a guy he is. As polite and patient as he seems on the field, he got himself clicked with fans and patiently signed their autograph books. Then we waited for some time for the Proteas to come out.
After a long wait of almost another hour, we saw them coming out. We saw Mark Boucher, Morne Morkel and Imran Tahir coming out. We yelled that please get a pic with us. Only Imran listened and came out to have a pic with us. I was amazed to hear when he talked to me in Hindi!
Meanwhile, I asked Morkel and Boucher to have a pic but they didn’t come out of the car. Other guys with us went a bit restless. Then we saw their coach Allan Donald, captain Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and AB De Villiers coming out. We yelled like crazies and requested them to have a pic with us.
AB heard and came out; he told that he would have an individual pic with each of us. What a gesture it was. I was shocked to see such humility in a cricketer of such a high calibre. Smith, Kallis and Donald waved their hands to us but didn’t come out of the car. Eventually, in another car, we saw Steyn, Philander and other staff members coming out.
We thought everyone had left the ground, and then we just saw Kirsten and another staff member of the Proteas coming out of the other gate and walking. We thought of flowing them to get a pic with the remaining members of the South African squad. We followed then like detectives and after walking for a Km or so, we saw that they went inside the Novotel hotel in the Hamilton CBD.
So we went to the bar there and got some drinks while we waited for the cricketers to be seen. Our luck and hard work paid off and we saw many of them roaming there. Then we got pics clicked with Brendon McCullum, Chris Martin, Doug Bracewell and Dale Steyn.
We asked Vernon Philander roaming there if Kallis and Smith were coming out, he told that they were with family and might be having dinner with them. So we thought not to wait for them.
Meanwhile, we saw Jacques Rudolph and Alviro Petersen, but they were also with their families hence we thought of not disturbing them. The players were slowly coming out after changing and moving out into the city for chilling around.
It was a bit shocking to see them just move out like that alone or with their families because we can’t even imagine such freedom to these celebrities in India. It was a joy to watch this. I met a fan there, who had a huge scrapbook of all the current playing team members of Kiwis and Proteas and he was getting everyone’s autographs on their respective pics. It was mind blowing to see the dedication of this guy.
We both talked for quite a long time and he told me that in NZ cricket is not as popular as rugby is. Hence the players are not very well known. So I told him about this scenario in India and he was baffled.
It was St. Patrick’s Day so the players also might have wanted to enjoy this day too. So we decided to move and go to our house. I couldn’t get a pic with Kallis, which I had originally aimed for while coming to the match in Hamilton, but I saw him and talked to other guys in both the teams so it was a successful outing for me.
When we came back home, I felt quite satisfied to see my large number of pics with celebrities. I have the pics uploaded here. Now that will be another memorable day in my life for a long time now.