On the top tier of the stands at the Ferozeshah Kotla grounds in the Arun Jaitley Stadium, the sun shone on the spectators. It was the start of the second half of February, with the winters coming to an end.
India and Australia were playing the second Test match over the weekend and a handful of spectators endured the sun to spend time there on the top tier including a small kid of around eight who had come with his grandmother from the Delhi Cantonment area, about half an hour’s drive from the Kotla.
“He is a big fan of Virat Kohli. He came here only to see him,” said the grandmother.
Kohli, despite having left Delhi in 2016 and despite having ditched its first-class team by not playing a Ranji Trophy game for about a decade now, still had huge fan-following in the stands in the Test in his city of birth and upbringing.
But beyond the support for him and other India stars like Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, the fans, it appeared, faced some challenges.
There was no shed – even temporary tent — over their head and except in stands with premium seats, most spectators had to bear the sun all throughout the day.
In the times when Test matches were happening in Delhi’s famed pleasant gulaabi weather (which runs from late October till November) or in winter of December, watching matches in open stands was fun.
However, pollution levels and international cricket scheduling have ensured that the four-Test series, and hence the Delhi Test, was held in these months when summer is knocking at the door just like it did in 2013 when India and Australia played the Delhi Test in March.
The heat became a bit of a dampener in this match, leading to largely empty seats on top tier.
Other complaints, graver than the weather, erupted on twitter.
“We found more “open” toilets. But the pipes connecting the water supply to the flush tanks were missing. No trash cans, no toilet paper. So the floor got soaked and WCs remained dirty. Stinking mess. Again, rule#1 for women came into effect – no drinking water,” wrote Shilpa Phadke, a development sector and public policy professional, on her twitter handle about facilities in the Arun Jaitley Stadium.
She, however, did not share pictures to support her claims.
But Soutik Biswas, a journalist with the BBC, tweeted pictures of worn-out, soiled chairs.
Another twitter user tweeted about the lack of view from a seat.
“Think I deserve to get a refund of 40% on it (the ticket) given that’s all I can see from here,” he wrote and tweeted a picture from where he could see only one half of the ground.
The Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) president Rohan Jaitley, however, played down the matter of unclean toilets saying that it will be unfair to judge on the basis of just one odd complaint when the stadium was filled to 65-70% capacity and no one else complained.
“The stadium was 65-70% full and we did not receive any complaint [beyond twitter]. If there were gaps, we will definitely plug them,” Jaitley told Patriot.
“As for housekeeping, we provided a good level of housekeeping in common stands, the same as for some other sections and there had been no complaints,” he added.
The DDCA joint secretary Rajan Manchanda said that they have not received any complaint beyond the odd one on twitter and said it was more about people’s habits of not flushing after they relieve themselves.
“We had proper facilities. Sometimes people go to relieve themselves and they don’t flush it. We have noticed that. They also need to cooperate. Take a look at the marquee (high-end) section as an example. We had kept 15 dustbins but people threw the litter outside, in corners. It made the place untidy. There were nine members of the housekeeping from the DDCA, six from Nirula’s, who had to collect the waste from the floors and throw it in the dustbins,” he told Patriot.
He added that the issue of open stands, exposing spectators to the sun, cannot be dealt with immediately but they will definitely make some arrangements in future.
With regard to the seats from where complete view is unavailable, Jaitley said that the criticism lacks basis as those tweeting were not aware of the rules.
“There are some kill seats (those from where full view is unavailable) in stadia. The kill seats are not sold. No spectator gets to sit on those seats,” added Jaitley.
Despite the defence of DDCA’s top bosses, Shilpa Phadke’s tweet had garnered well over a million views while the one complaining about kill seats got close to 32,000 views.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the governing body of cricket in the country, mandates that there should be a manual scoreboard working at every venue. This is to ensure that the crowd keeps track of the score even if the electricity goes off and the electronic scoreboard stops. However, that wasn’t the case at the Kotla grounds.
Even though arrangements had been made, those in charge of in-stadia rights put a small screen for ads and live match in front of the scoreboard which also often showed live scores but only in brief.
“We had made the arrangements, got the name and number plates painted, arranged the staff to do it but there was a communication gap and the people holding in-stadia rights put a screen on it. But we will ensure it is available for the next Test whenever it happens,” said Manchanda.
Many former international cricketers from Delhi did not come to the venue to witness the Test despite being allocated free match tickets to the marquee area, a prime area.
Part of the reason for this is their grievances.
“Most players are busy. They would come if somebody from the association were to give a proper invite and accorded respect. There is no sense of [cricketers’] community, no culture in the association,” said former India international Atul Wassan, who has represented four Tests, nine ODIs and 80 first-class matches.
“For me, I have too many things to do in life. It seems that the ex-players are not needed [in DDCA]. Culture has been made like it. [Even] Players, who have played for long, are not treated with respect.”
Another ex-India cricketer Surinder Khanna was, however, thankful for the marquee tickets provided to the cricketers but elaborated on why he or other cricketers don’t attend matches.
“I don’t come. There is no point in taking a pass and sitting in an enclosure, even if it is good, in one corner of a ground. We are ex-India cricketers. We would like invitation in an area closer to say, commentary box where we can meet old cricketers. That will be better. But they sent passes to good enclosure this time, for that we were grateful.”
Khanna says he had once suggested DDCA to keep a separate enclosure for cricketers in the Old Clubhouse stand from where the view is clearest.
“I had suggested former DDCA sports secretary, late Manmohan Sood, to reserve around 20 seats for ex-cricketers in the Old Clubhouse and make it a section. We cricketers would have enjoyed the game with each other in silence in that gallery. After all, cricket matches are days when you catch up with your old fellow players.”
Manchanda, however, said that they had made arrangements for even ex-India captain Bishan Bedi, who is not keeping well, and allowed for his car to drive into the stands.
“We went out of the way to pamper the cricketers.”