The Cheerleaders

Here Dhoni beats Munni hands down and Sheila ki jawani is no match for Sachin’s wicked, wicket ways. In World Cup season, item numbers give way to cricket and deejays drop chartbusters to launch into commentary at the city’s pubs.

The good news is that the sportsbar culture is finally taking off in the national capital region — with life-size screens, deals on spirits and special menus — where strangers turn into boisterous, backslapping buddies, egging on Viru, Sachin or Virat, beer mug in hand. As former India opening batsman Aakash Chopra puts it, “There’s nothing better than watching a World Cup game with a knowledgeable crowd, particularly when your team is doing well.”

The bad news? While they are positioned as sportsbars, not many really live up to the nomenclature in technology or sporting spirit. Arvind Kumar, a civil servant and cricket aficionado says: “A screening should recreate a stadium-like atmosphere. But unlike in the UK, many Delhi pub owners think placing a few LCD televisions is enough.”

The science behind a good screening is simple. “Inconsistent sound, wrong screen placement and dingy projectors can take the joy out of the best of screenings,” says HT columnist and NDTV managing editor (technology) Rajiv Makhni.

Equally important, perhaps, is the right sporting attitude. Take the case of Nitin Arora, 25, a finance executive with Agilent Technologies, Gurgaon. Out with friends to enjoy the opening ceremony of World Cup 2011 on the big screen at Howzatt, Arora was stumped when the management refused to put the sound on. “For a pub that calls itself ‘India’s first cricket themed pub brewery,’ playing the opening ceremony on mute is surprising,” says Arora.

Technology experts say our pubs have a long way to go to make sports viewing an optimum experience. While Makhni says Delhi’s bars are yet to raise the bar in enhancing the experience over a television at home, Nishant Padhiar, editor, Stuff magazine, laments the lack of good acoustics (see box).

However, sports bar owners claim they’ve deployed technology with the customer in mind. Says Ashish Ahuja of Pebble Street, one of the oldest sports pubs in the city, set up in 1999. “To ensure vantage viewing, we’ve put three large screens.” Samir Chawla of Blues Bar and Café, which opened this month, promises fans the largest cricket screen in the city at his older, flagship outlet. “We are setting up two 8x 16 feet screens. The lighting is LED and the menu has a cricket theme.”

Realising the irresistible pull of a cricket-drinking combo, even football–centric pubs have jumped onto the bandwagon. The Manchester United Cafe Bar in Gurgaon will ditch screening the on-going English Premier League and prefer screening World Cup Cricket instead, both at its Gurgaon outlet and the newly opened Vasant Vihar one.

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