Johannesburg: The surprise attendance of actor Shah Rukh Khan in the stands and the numerous ‘Chak De! India’ being waved with gay abandon spurred India to victory in the inaugural Twenty20 World Championship at the Wanderers here.
With spectacular performances by both India and Pakistan, the game had the capacity crowd on the edge of their seats as the pendulum violently swung either way.
In terms of crowd support, India clearly had an edge over Pakistan, with the tricolour hugely outnumbering the Pakistan flags.
Clapping vigorously from the VIP area, Hindi film icon Shah Rukh blew kisses to the crowd when they cheered him as loudly as the teams each time his face appeared on the giant TV screens at the ‘bullring’ as the Wanderers is fondly referred to by the locals for being the hub of Johannesburg’s sporting activity for almost 75 years.
Sporting a velvet shirt to promote his forthcoming movie “Om Shanti Om”, Shah Rukh occasionally lifted his 10-year-old son Aryan and was clearly enjoying the game thoroughly.
At one stage he was shown taking pictures with a Nikon camera, with local host Jagdish Parekh of Sahara Computers trying to teach him a few tricks of the trade.
Current promotions of ‘Om Shanti Om’ are making a great fuss about Shah Rukh taking off his shirt in the film to show his newly acquired six-pack, and Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni seemed to emulate him briefly. Dhoni took off his shirt and put it on a young lad who was brought in by a TV commentator to meet him, walking off bare-chested.
Regular refrains of “India! India!” from the crowd drowned out any chance of the Pakistani supporters getting much opportunity to spur on their side. These supporters included some English fans, complete with punk hairstyles in support of their T-shirts reading ‘Punkistan’.
As Misbah-ul Haq brought Pakistan to within one shot of victory, a member of the Pakistani support team muttered desperate prayers with folded hands in the dug-out, alas to no avail.
Team India will take home not just the trophy, but also a cash booty of $490,000, which pales in comparison to the $2 million reward announced by the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
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