Spectators are not allowed in the ongoing three-match one-day international (ODI) series between India and
England as per Covid protocols . But what if someone is determined to find a way to reach a vantage point from where he can
catch the stadium action and view the proceedings as best as possible?
That’s what Sudhir Kumar Gautam decided to do.
Cricket fans in India know Sudhir well. He has been a constant figure in Indian cricket matches for many years now. Sudhir has
been attending every home match that the Indian cricket team has played since 2007. He is a die-hard Sachin Tendulkar fan
and paints his body in the colours of the Indian flag before each India match, with Sachin Tendulkar and his shirt number of 10
also painted. After Sachin’s retirement, Sudhir began painting the words ‘Miss U’ before Sachin’s name on his body.
Sudhir’s die-hard passion of supporting and cheering for Team India is still well and truly alive. These days, with the ODIs vs
England on, he gets up in the wee hours of the morning, spends almost 7 hours to get his body painted and then rushes to the
Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune, the venue for the ODI series. With a tri-colour in hand and the word
Tendulkar painted on his chest and back, Sudhir blows a conch to announce the arrival of the Indian team members.
And then begins the real adventure. After greeting the Indian team bus at the stadium, he, then, covers a 2 km distance to get
to a place called Ghoradeshwar. This is a place that is famous for its historic caves. The caves contain carvings and statues of
Buddhist and Hindu deities.
The distance to Ghoradeshwar from the Maharashtra Cricket Association stadium in Pune is about 4.6 kms via NH48. Sudhir
though doesn’t have the time, not the conveyance to take that route. He therefore cuts through a forest.
This forest, according to Sudhir, has snakes and other reptiles. But that is not a deterrent for Sudhir.
“There are a lot of snakes in the forest. I can travel via road also, but it takes a lot of time. I do not have any conveyance either.
That’s why I take the forest route. I have to trek across big rocks during the journey. I have injured myself a number of times
during this journey. But when I reach the hilltop, the pain goes away. Zor se shankhnaad karta hun Team India ke liye (I blow the
conch loudly to cheer for Team India),” Sudhir in an exclusive interview.
From that distance of course Sudhir can’t see any match action. It’s just too far away. But he can see the stadium, which is lit up
in the evening and feels closer to the team that he has dedicated his life to cheer for.
“I just love this place. I can’t see the match or players from here. All I can see is the big screen from the stadium. Whenever a player hits a boundary, I cheer for him,” Sudhir further said.
Sudhir leaves the place an hour before sunset so that he can cross the forest safely on his way back.
“I watch 40 overs of the first innings and then leave. I am staying with one of my friends. He has provided me accommodation. I
reach the highway and then hitch-hike. People happily give me a lift in their cars or bikes. After reaching my place, I watch the
remaining action on television,” the 40-year-old from Muzzarfarpur .
Though a die hard Indian team fan, Sudhir can never miss a match where Sachin Tendulkar is in action. During the India vs
England T20I series, Sudhir was in Raipur to cheer for his ‘God’ who was captaining the India Legends team in the Road Safety
He met Sachin there and burst into tears. He had met Tendulkar after a long time. Sachin has been getting Sudhir match tickets
for years and also paying for other expenses. In fact after India won the 2011 ODI World Cup, Sachin invited Sudhir into the
Indian dressing room at Wankhede stadium.
“I was so happy to meet my God. He still supports me. He still takes care of my expenses. Whenever I go to watch an India
match, he gets my flight tickets booked. I am so honoured that I am his fan. He loves me so much. I was so happy for him that
he and the team won the trophy (Road safety World Series). He (Sachin) called me before departing for the hotel from the
stadium and I got a picture clicked with him. He hugged me and that made me cry,” Sudhir.