For a long time, fans had been reaching out to me to make time to talk cricket with them. Last season, I started the #SixOfTheBest initiative to bring fans closer to the game. We had two wonderful meet-ups, one at Newlands and the other at the Wanderers, where I got to meet some of the most passionate cricket fans of those regions, thanks to wonderful hospitality from Cricket South Africa and the respective stadiums.
LISTEN: Kass Naidoo in conversation with Ashutosh Shirke, Abhishek Chopra, Ajinkya Pandharkar, Dr. Sagar Walve and Darshan Doshi:
Last week my simple tweet calling for cricket fans in Mumbai to get in touch led to one of my most authentic fan interactions at a coffee shop at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, on a sweltering night in the bustling city.
Good morning 😊 Who are the most passionate cricket fans in Mumbai? I want to see something 😁
— Kass Naidoo (@KassNaidoo) October 13, 2019
Rising sports journalist and cricket fan, Niharika Raina, sent me a DM suggesting I check out the North Stand Gang – Wankhede (@NorthStandGang on Twitter), which I did. We got in touch and I started chatting to one of the members, Abhishek Chopra. We had agreed to meet on my only night in Mumbai at the end of my India tour, where I covered the India v South Africa women’s tour in Surat and Baroda.
The North Stand Gang is a growing bunch of cricket fanatics who are celebrating 10 years since they caught the world’s attention due to their vocal fan support.
As founder Ashutosh Shirke explained, they had been supporting cricket for years before 2009, but the ease of access introduced by mobile phones and the ability to interact freely in the digital space has seen the group’s rise in prominence.
It was an amazing conversation as six of us shared stories of our mutual love of cricket, how we fell in love with the game and who are favourite cricketers were, as we huddled over tasty drinks at a Starbucks that hummed with the sounds of people from all over the world.
Big shout out to Ashutosh, Abhishek, Ajinkya Pandharkar, Dr. Sagar Walve and Darshan Doshi for a truly special night talking cricket in Mumbai.
#SixOfTheBest is taking off!
Photo 1 Caption: Selfie to capture a memorable night at #SixOfTheBest Mumbai. Photo: Supplied
Photo 2 Caption: Honoured to the first South African to receive the famed North Stand Gang shirt. Photo: Supplied
Photo 3 Caption: Speaking to Ashutosh Shirke who founded the North Stand Gang all those years ago! Photo: Supplied
Photo 4 Caption: Darshan, Ashutosh, Abhishek, Sagar and Ajinkya are some of the most passionate cricket fans I ever met. Their admiration of SA cricketers is next level. Photo: Supplied