Ajay Thakor is seen running towards the boundary.
Before Indian skipper Virat Kohli took to the crease on the first day of the third test match between India and England at the Narendra Modi Cricket Stadium in Ahmedabad on Wednesday evening, not many knew that his “biggest fan” — Ajay Thakor, 21 — lived a kilometre away at the Bhilwas Kailash Nagar slum near Motera.
Even Ajay Thakor’s best friend Suresh Patni, who was with him to watch the match, had no clue that his star-struck friend would jump the fence, breach the bio-bubble (a safe space designated for cricketers and umpires in view of Covid) and sprint 60 metres towards the pitch, leading to his arrest for breaching the Covid-19 protocol.
“Ajay booked tickets for three of us and informed us at the last minute to join him at the stadium. We were seated on our allotted seats when an Indian wicket fell and Ajay saw Kohli walking towards the crease. Woh pagal ho gaya (he went berserk) and started moving towards the fence. When I warned him, he told me that he just wanted a better view… Within seconds, he jumped the fence and entered the ground. Before we could understand what was happening, he ran towards the pitch,” said Patni.
By Wednesday night, the entire Bhilwas Kailash Nagar slum came to know that Ajay Thakor is being referred as “pitch intruder” by the commentators on television. In a video telecast of the match, Thakor could be seen running towards the crease as Kohli was about to play the ball. Within seconds, the ball was fortified even as Kohli took a few steps backwards to avoid any contact with the spectator. Thakor then ran towards the boundary where he was caught by a security guard.
“When he was caught, I ran to him and asked why he did it. He just said that he wanted to handshake with Kohli as he was his biggest fan… I knew he was a big fan of Kohli but never had an idea that he would do such a thing,” said Patni.
21 year old Ajay Thakor (seen right most in the selfie pic, holding the camera) clicked a selfie with his friends at the Narendra Modi stadium in Ahmedabad during first day of third test cricket match between India and England, moments before he jumped the fence and reached the crease.
A few hours later, Thakor was booked under Indian Penal Code section 188 for disobedience to order given by public servant and section 51(B) of the Disaster Management Act for refusing to comply with any direction given by state or central government within this Act and section 3 of Epidemic Diseases Act for disobeying any order given under the Act. From Wednesday 9.30 pm, Thakor has been in custody at the Chandkheda police station.
“I managed to get his bail papers by 2 am on Thursday but police said they would release him late on Thursday after 24 hours so that he doesn’t resort to any nuisance again,” said Patni.
The FIR against Thakor states that he was not wearing a mask when he entered the ground illegally and could have posed a risk of giving Covid-19 infection to the players.
A police officer at Chandkheda police station told The Indian Express, “The accused was arrested and his bail papers have been arranged. He will be released after second day of the match ends.”
At the Bhilwas Kailash Nagar slum, Ajay has now become a household name. Both Ajay and Suresh are school dropouts and work as drivers.
His mother Vimla Thakor said, “We had no idea that Ajay was such a huge cricket fan. I only knew that he had gone to watch the match with friends. Then we saw on TV where Ajay was running towards the pitch. It was a stupid act…”
“Ajay always liked playing cricket and religiously followed IPL with us on mobile phone,” said Nagesh Thakor, a pan seller in the area.
In his defence, his best friend Patni says, “Ajay pagal hai pura (Ajay is a crazy guy) He didn’t do it for fame or else he would asked me to record a video on my mobile phone… He just made an impulsive decision after seeing his favourite cricketer.”