"I was a bit nervous before hopping on the plane to India. The idea of travelling alone to an unfamiliar place seemed intense. However, since I landed, it's been nothing short of amazing. The people here are incredibly welcoming and friendly. After witnessing Glenn Maxwell's incredible innings at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Tuesday, I took the 6:40am Intercity Express from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) to Pune to catch the England vs Netherlands match. Navigating the trains was a bit daunting, but the locals were so helpful, ensuring I had a good time. Oh, and I've developed a love for street food - the vada pavs and samosas are fantastic. My only wish was for England to have played better. Besides the cricket, the whole experience has been truly amazing," shared Freddie Winter, an English cricket fan who travelled to India to witness the ongoing ICC World Cup 2023 from Manchester, with The Free Press Journal.
We also spoke with several other English fans, and they all shared the same sentiment about their stay in India. Shaun Parker, who travelled all the way from London, mentioned that he first visited Ahmedabad to watch the England vs Australia game before coming to Pune. "It's been a brilliant experience. People have been very welcoming. It's been really special to be here. I would have loved England to have done a bit better, but it hasn't affected things much," he said. Jonathan Edwards, accompanying Parker, added, "The passion for cricket here is amazing. The stadiums are huge, and the atmosphere has been fantastic. I came here when I was two years old, so I don't remember anything from that time. I am glad to have gotten to travel around the country during this visit."
Phil Stone from Lancashire told us that he had visited India 20 years ago. He noted, "The country has changed so much. It's now become so vibrant and on the move. It's a very exciting country at the moment. During this trip, I have brought my dad along, and we are in India for nine days. We went to Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, and now Pune. The food has been great. The sites have been really cool to watch. However, the cricket has been a hard watch," he added.
Marcus Robinson from Edinburgh mentioned that Pune has now become his favourite city in the world. "The people here are really amicable. It's also not very loud like Mumbai," he said. "After this match, we are off to Goa for a holiday," he added.
'True cricket enthusiasts come to witness the game, regardless of the location'
There's an ongoing debate on social media about whether Pune's Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) Stadium could ever match the electric atmosphere of iconic venues like Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium or Kolkata's Eden Gardens. Many fans argue that it's not possible unless proper road transport is made available, given the stadium's distance from the city. When asked about this debate, MCA Secretary Shubhendra Bhandarkar stated, "More than 10,000 fans came to watch the England vs Netherlands match, and the South Africa vs New Zealand game was packed to the brim. So I don't find any credibility in this debate, as true cricket enthusiasts come to witness the game, regardless of the location."
Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) Stadium | Gaurav Kadam
Bhandarkar also highlighted that they have garnered praise from the international media and fans for the top-notch facilities offered at the stadium. "We rented 42 acres of land for parking, complete with balloons displaying parking numbers for easy identification. We distributed maps and installed signage for convenience. Additionally, complimentary drinking water was provided," he added.