Date: 8th of December, 2012
It was a cool, foggy and a misty winter morning in Kolkata. The jerkins were out. The skull caps were out. The city was slowly waking up, as usual, lazily. I made up my mind to not be the epitome-of-laziness that I always is. Because, the place which is a 15-minute drive from my house, was presenting me with an opportunity to meet a bunch of people whom I adore the most.
So, we got up, breezed past the Park Street, the Maidan to make our way into the Eden Gardens where the Indians and the English were involved in a gripping contest of bat and ball. As we neared the stadium, I could spot queues which were more than double of what I generally see in front of liquor shops in Kerala during Christmas and New Year. The sheer presence of thousands, made me believe that ‘Cricket will NEVER die in India, or rather, we will NEVER allow it to’.
Eden Gardens has its own charm. The Ganges flows behind it. There is a circular railway beside it. And it is located in one of the most serene spots in the otherwise not-so-serene-city. Romantics have always rated it along with the Lord’s and MCG as the best place to enjoy Test cricket. There is history attached to it. Two honourable cricketers once transformed the idiom ‘Bat the entire day’ into reality after which a Sardar, the tweaker just ran through the all-time-best batting line-up to give India a famous win here. Since then, people believe that if the miracles were to happen in Cricket, it will, only at the Eden Gardens. With its spectator capacity of 70000 ( once it was around a lakh ) , there is no bigger intimidation than this for the visiting teams.
There was a huge roar as the Indian duo of Sehwag and Gambhir strolled into the wicket. There were whistles all over. The stadium was just about to come to life. Attendance was easily around 60000. Kids, teenagers, budding cricketers, office-goers, home makers, retired gentlemen, they were all there. The office goers didn’t need to fake food poisoning to throng into the stadium as it was a Saturday. I was slowly realizing that I have not just come here to cheer for my heroes, but to learn what Test Cricket is and how everything boils down to 22-cricketers and not 22-yards.
Sehwag-Gambhir, easily India’s best opening pair in its history, were playing out some attacking and eye-catching shots. They were making the English bowlers look so meek, much to the excitement of the crowd. Sehwag, one of the most loved cricketers was cheered for every ball he faced. Being a die-hard Sehwag fan and for whom all other activities come to a standstill whenever he bats, this was just a different world. I clapped. I whistled. I ‘eyyy’ed. I waved. I knew, I was enjoying it, until he got out. The next batsman too exited soon.
Suddenly, the crowd erupts. Standing ovation followed. I was hearing the chants. This was some sight really. The master, Bradman’s favourite, the God of cricket was on his way to the center. I haven’t seen anything of this sort before. Almost the whole of 60000 Calcutta crowd stood up. So, did the otherwise intimidating and disrespectful Barmy-Army section of the crowd. And so did, the seventy year old gentleman sitting in front of me. Wow! What a sight that. I understood that no one really envied Sachin, in fact it is far from possible. The man whose experience is more than my age has been a constant indulgence.
When things were slowly sliding down the barrel, the crowd again erupted. I learnt quickly that it had to do something with the giant-screen. Yes, it showed the DADA commentating, somehow re-affirming that, in Kolkata, he is the man. He is the boss. He, is, the, Prince-of-Kolkata. I could even hear the “Dada, please come back” comments seeing the torrid state of the India’s batting.
Wickets kept tumbling. And, India was falling apart. English bowlers breezed through the brittle middle order. The seventy year old gentleman was furious. He went on with his “Dravid, Laxman, please come back” remarks. Yes, India was missing these two men who scripted a miracle here once. The Dravid-mania went on, on and on. I could even hear it in the Metro station after the match.
It wasn’t a good day as an Indian fan but was a better day as a cricket lover. I wish my next date with Eden (on Jan 3rd when India play Pakistan), turns out to be equally good for Indian fans as well as Cricket Lovers. After all there is no better place to watch Cricket. You’ll begin to understand why “Cricket is not just a sport in India”