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Behind the Sightscreen (Part 3)


3 parties are involved in the staging of an IPL match : The BCCI – IPL, the State Association and the Franchise. The State Association (Maharashtra Cricket Association) had hired us for Venue Management, while IMG had been hired by BCCI – IPL to execute the event. The Franchise (Sahara Pune Warriors) had a plethora of agencies to do their bidding.

Because the 9th and final match at the Subroto Roy Sahara Stadium was a playoff match, the dynamics completely changed. The Franchise is thrown out of the equation, and their responsibilities are divided between the SA and BCCI.

One of the major changes that takes place is the re-branding of the stadium. The stadium was stripped of anything with the Sahara logo, and replaced with IPL branding. While this was not really our responsibility, we did take pleasure in yanking down, with great gusto all that was Sahara’s and with it removed our frustration of the past few weeks. While most of it was easy to deal with, there was one thing that we could not get rid of. And that brings me to my greatest personal logistical nightmare, WATER.

Every spectator in the stadium is entitled to free water. This means about 34,000 people need to be provided with easy access to free water, while keeping in mind cost and space constraints. It translates into thousands of litres of water, and truly tiresome and tedious exercises of planning, stocking and distributing. Since Sahara had been providing their own brand of water for the previous matches, we had only 3 days to master it. While it now sounds like a mean task, the memories of the first few matches that were host to water-riots that were worthy of the Sahara desert had us sweating. And the fact that made everything even more gruesome – The rulebook (or the sponsorship guidelines) did not allow us to distribute the (200 ml packed) water glasses that Sahara had so kindly left behind in thousands. That meant we had to transport, hide, drink, bury or somehow make these glasses disappear, and replace the stalls with unbranded water glasses. I won’t go into further details except to say that in the end, we managed to pull it off – 5 truckloads of water glasses were unloaded and stocked in 2 days, the Sahara water was put to good use, and no one went thirsty on match day.

They say “Practise makes perfect”. While I think they were referring to on-field, it definitely applies to off-the-field as well.

By the 9th match, even the most random problems were met with a quick solution from everyone in my team. I think large part of the credit goes the general resolution made to utilize every pocket in our jeans or track pants. I spent a large part of the first match running literally around the stadium, trying to procure a last minute parking pass for a commentator. From then on, I carried extra passes with me wherever I went. The officials shivered away in their cabin because the AC remote could not be located. By the 9th match, my colleague had in his pockets not only the AC, but also the TV, Tata Sky remote. I think he left out his music system remote because he ran out of pockets. Everyone had their ‘tool’ – or the Leatherman Multi-tool that is the loyal companion of any self respecting event manager. Some people even carried extra cell phone batteries!
Desperate measures

The only other party that had learned as much as us, in my opinion was the Police. In the first few matches only the designated number showed up for duty. But, as the season progressed, their conscientiousness and diligence in protecting the people came to light. Every person in the task force took it as his personal responsibility to be inside the stadium, whether he or she had been assigned there, or not. If the gates were locked, they squeezed through gaps in them. If their accreditations were blocked, they put into effect the “what’s yours is mine” rule and found one that wasn’t. They helped the match organizers find every weak spot in the system, by exploiting it themselves.

Private security however pulled up their socks right till their knees. The game changer was an army camp type briefing, where orders were barked by the Security Manager at decibel levels so high that no one dared to slack. Even the rest of us dared not speak, and stood meekly in the corner even though we were supposed to be leading the briefing.  

The accreditation team had to re-accredit the staff working for the play-off. I was so terrified after the first experience, that the idea of re-doing it all in a span of 3 days nearly sent me into a coma. However I decided it would be more fruitful to organise the process and be meticulous (in a way that would make my poor mother, who spends half her time locating my misplaced possessions, wonder if her daughter had suffered a concussion), and that worked out for the better.

All other parties similarly ironed out the creases in their functioning. I can now proudly state that whatever the result on the scoreboard, we, as the ones who slaved behind the sightscreens, emerged victorious at the end of the IPL 5 season. 

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