Celebrity Watch, Cricket And Chaos: Commonwealth Games Flavour In Birmingham

Cricket

The Arena in Birmingham will be the home of Gymnastics events over the next few days. The third largest indoor stadium complex is also the home of journalists from 72 Commonwealth Countries and territories. From collecting accreditations to bibs to venue access guidelines, this is a journalist’s must-go destination and is by far the busiest hub in the city as the event waits to open. Elsewhere it is a lull before the storm.

Azreel from a Malaysian TV station is curious about India’s Lakshya Sen because the Malaysians are formidable in badminton and he wants all the tid-bits on Sen. 
But stops 10-mins into the conversation, “Hang on, isn’t cricket returning after Kuala Lumpur in 1998?’

It is a multi-discipline event- the biggest Commonwealth Games with 19 sports. India is participating in 16 of 19. For the moment, the talk of the town is Women’s Cricket.

With Neeraj Chopra’s exit and the Women’s cricket team delivering an opening day opening show, all roads are leading to Edgbaston.

Craig Cooper, Programme Director, Birmingham City Council affirms, “Cricket is a highlight of these games. We had the Test match here a few days ago and the T20, India did particularly well. Also the Pakistani community is a big part of this city.”

And that also means the big ticket event will be on 31st July, when the Indian women take on their Pakistani counterparts.

In Birmingham’s proposal for women’s cricket, the CWG Federation had said the sport’s addition was “likely to be popular not only with spectators locally in Birmingham, but also for fans across competing nations, with 90% of the sport’s one billion fans worldwide thought to reside in the Commonwealth.”

Even in the middle of severe economic crisis, 15 Lankan journalists have made their way to the Commonwealth Games. Dinushki says, “Hoping to catch the women cricket team’s giant killing act”

India finds itself in the same group as Australia, Pakistan and Barbados.

Barbados team has the likes of the star all-rounder Deandra Dottin, the Knight twins.

Ayona Williams, a fan of this star studded outfit says, “They are definitely an exciting bunch of athletes. I will be at the Edgbaston stadium to see them create some magic”

Over 12 lakh tickets have been sold for the entire duration of the event and a large chunk has gone to the Asian Community in Birmingham.

Sahil Sheikh, from Lyari in Pakistan, a taxi driver who has made the city his home for a decade and a half says, “I have been following the progress of women cricketers. For these Indian girls, it should be about making Mithali Raj proud. I spotted them at the airport getting a grand reception, and my younger daughter made a sprint for autographs. I am coming for India vs Pakistan with my Turkish neighbours.”

The athletes are in three campus villages in Birmingham. With the diktat on social distancing in place, fans are unable to catch the stars in the city.

But make no mistake about the star power that the city has at the moment.

Upon finishing my live broadcast at the Centenary square, I made my way back to the Press Centre at the Arena, through the international convention centre. As I walked, there was a familiar smile and a warm Bengali greeting from former Indian cricket team captain and BCCI President Sourav Ganguly. The big boys of ICC are in the city too, deciding on the future of the game and gauging the popularity of women’s cricket through CWG2022.

The BCCI President bid adieu, assuring me of his presence at the opening game- India vs Australia.

“See you at Edgbaston on 29th. I am looking forward to the opening by the Indian women.”

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The spectators at the cricket may have it easy, but the ones coming in for the Games over the weekend are almost certain to encounter travel misery as trains will come to a grinding halt on July 30 due to a strike. But come Sunday, the chaos is expected to fade, and the clash of the arch rivals bring in super charged fans from both nations, if rain gods hold up.

Catch all the action, big newsbreaks and live updates from the 2022 Commonwealth Games on NDTV.com powered by Visit Britain.

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