By Jamie Alter
The ongoing Road Safety World Series, a promotional T20 tournament featuring many illustrious former cricketers from across the globe and put together to spread awareness about road safety, has so far attracted fans wherever it has been held. The second season of the Road Safety World Series started in Kanpur, then shifted to Indore and is currently being played at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium on the outskirts of Dehradun.
Defending champions India Legends, captained by Sachin Tendulkar, won their first match in Raipur last week before the second on Sunday was washed out, and wherever the team has gone, local residents have thronged for a glimpse of these cricketing icons. Be it outside the airport or when the teams are travelling from the hotel to the stadium, Dehradun’s citizens can be seen trying to get the attention of cricketers from the eight teams participating: India, Australia, Sri Lanka, West Indies, England, Bangladesh, New Zealand and South Africa.
The cricket stadium situated in Raipur along the road from Dehradun to Jolly Grant Airport and Rishikesh, had before this series hosted 12 international matches across all three formats. Each of these featured Afghanistan, when the BCCI had allowed the visitors to use this venue as their ‘home’ venue, but the Road Safety World Series is the first time that any Indian cricketers have played here.
The former India spinner, Pragyan Ojha, now a member of the IPL Governing Council, told The Garhwal Post that the experience in Dehradun was a pleasant one. “It has been great to get together again with so many great and illustrious cricketers and some friends and play this series. The tournament has been great fun and we’ve enjoyed our time in Dehradun where the fans have been terrific,” said Ojha, who took 113 wickets in Test cricket.
Added Stuart Binny, the former international who is India Legends’ leading run-getter in the tournament: “It is a nice ground and we enjoyed playing here in front of the Uttarakhand audience. Really good to be participating in a tournament like this with so many cricket legends.”
The matches in Raipur have been well attended by Uttarakhand residents, with last Thursday’s match between India Legends and England Legends drawing a near-capacity crowd of over 20,000 despite late-monsoon showers threatening to play dampener on the grand occasion.
Dehradun resident Ronjoy Rao took a group of students from SNEHA Doon Academy, the school for the under privileged he runs in Govindgarh, to watch that match, which was the first time the students had attended a live game, and described an electric atmosphere.
“I remember going for the Afghanistan versus Bangladesh last-ball thriller at the same stadium back in 2018 which was close to houseful and was pleasantly surprised at how well the traffic, parking, security checks, etc., was managed. Anticipating a lot of traffic, I actually landed up with students at the stadium at 5:30 p.m. not knowing that game wouldn’t start till 9:30 p.m. due to a wet outfield but inside the stadium one gets carried away with the constants shouts of ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ and of course the most famous chant ‘Sachin … Sachin’. All the young boys and girls at the stadium who weren’t even born when Tendulkar was in his prime had the chance to witness 40-odd runs from a vintage Sachin,” he said.
“On the way to the ground I met a number of folks who were witnessing a match live for the first time ever and no one was holding back their excitement. I was carrying the India flag as I walked in and over 20 people walked up to me wanting to borrow the flag for the picture against the backdrop of the picturesque Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium under lights. To get a game going despite the heavy rain the previous night and the morning was commendable by the groundsmen and organisers. I got home at 1:30 at night wondering if we’ll ever witness the likes of Kohli, Sharma, Bumrah at this stadium in our life time. Who knows … Dehradun does tend to surprise you from time to time.”
Indeed, here’s hoping that more such cricket does return to these parts.
(Jamie Alter is a sports writer, author, anchor, actor and YouTuber. He is a native of Mussoorie who now he lives in Noida)