`Athithi Devo bhava’

By T S Sudhir

South Zone captain Dinesh Karthick was confident he had the Duleep Trophy in his pocket, this Sunday. But then Dinesh had not contended with the power of Yusuf Pathan who made the target of 536 in the fourth innings seem like kidstuff. As the Rajasthan Royal all-rounder batted like a king, West Zone lifted the prestigious Cup, besides creating a world record.

Not just South Zone, even officials of the Hyderabad Cricket Association were disappointed. This would have been an opportunity to demonstrate that the Rajiv Gandhi international cricket stadium in the city is not jinxed for the home team. But yet again, the visiting side had triumphed against all odds. Even odds as daunting as 536.

Not everyone agrees but I would dismiss it as nothing more than a series of coincidences. Deccan Chargers, which is Hyderabad’s team in the Indian Premier League, lost all its seven matches in IPL Season One on home turf. Ditto in the Champions league. India has lost all the three one-dayers played here, including the last one in November last year. Sachin Tendulkar had brought the team to the brink of victory against Australia, only to see the tail simply refusing to wag. Sachin hit 175, one of his best knocks ever but it was in a losing cause and that hurt, besides reinforcing some people’s belief that Hyderabad blues will haunt the men in blue, playing in this stadium.

Blame it on the stadium, harp those who look for reasons beyond cricket. This worldclass facility that was built just five years ago, is modelled on the Wanderers and grounds Down Under. It can accommodate 40000 spectators and has been rated by no less than Sunil Gavaskar and Ricky Ponting as among the best in the world. Yes, everyone agrees. But the sniggers still go around that the best also brings the worst for the home team.

So instead of `V’ for victory, `V’ for Vaastu is the buzz that goes around at this stadium. Vaastu, for those who are not familiar, is a traditional Indian system of design based on directional alignments, wherein based on the `energy’ of the five elements, a building is constructed. And those who claim knowledge of this system, say all izz not well with the stadium’s Vaastu.

 “How is the stadium responsible if the home team loses time and again?” asks G Vinod, president of the Hyderabad Cricket Association. “It after all depends on the eleven players and how they perform on a given day is in no one’s control.”

Those in the association point out that Hyderabad defeated Mumbai in a Ranji match in 2006. Yes indeed. But unfortunately, that has been the only triumph. Critics ask how is it that the home team, invariably zooms to defeat, from comfortable winning positions.

And despite the bravado, the HCA has quite clearly felt the heat. And desperate cricketers make desperate moves. So dressing rooms were changed, in the hope that it would negate the so-called negative effects of `bad’ Vaastu. When that did not work, purohits were summoned to perform special puja to `cure’ the stadium last year. A Laxmi Ganapathi homam was performed at several locations in the stadium, starting reportedly with the square leg umpire’s position.

For three days, one heard hymns seeking to neutralise the suspected `vaastu dosham’ of this wonderful venue, and not the sound of the leather hitting the bat. No hymn was spared to ensure God was pleased with HCA’s line and length ! But the stadium’s home truths have continued to disappoint local cricket fans.

Those looking to fish in troubled waters, say the location of the swimming pool, to the left of the main entrance of the stadium, is the source of the trouble. A water body there is the reason, they claim, home teams find themselves in deep waters here.

Visiting sides, for obvious reasons, love the stadium. For where will you find a stadium that in true Indian tradition says `Atithi Devo bhava’ every single time.


About t s sudhir & uma sudhir

Uma Sudhir and T S Sudhir are senior journalists, based in Hyderabad. Both work for NDTV. Uma is a Tamilian, who was educated in
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