It was just cricket when Harbhajan Singh played against Punjab. When Rahul Dravid smashed Bangalore bowlers to smithereens, it was the 'magical flavour of T20 cricket.' When Sourav Ganguly takes on Kolkata however, expect the ultimate test of loyalties in a state known for its jingoistic love for sports.
To best understand what it is about Kolkata, Knight Riders and Ganguly that makes the May 5 contest, the most eagerly awaited clash in the Indian Premier League, here is an attempt to understand the psychic of Bengalis, most of whom are spirited fans anyway.
Real passion is in phasion
Gautam Gambhir, the Kolkata skipper, has said that he expects fans at the Eden Gardens to support his team to the hilt. He went to the extent of saying that his team plays to put a smile on every fan of the Knight Riders. For starters, 'Goutam Gombhir' has simplified the issue too blatantly and may well be left surprised when the crowd roars its support at the EdenÂ if and when he loses the toss. That is what a prince evokes from his followers. That is fevour. That is called real passion.
The most ardent of Bengalis would agree that Bengalis are passionate, emotional and desirous. In a country where most children dream to become cricketers, in Kolkata, mothers drag their children to practice at Maidan so that they can grow up to be like Sourav da. That is what a prince evokes from his followers. That is fervour. That is called real passion.
When the former India captain was dropped from the national team, most local fans ignored an India match at the Eden Gardens. If they can sacrifice an international match for their hero, it may well be all too simple for them to cheer the Warriors come May 5. That is what a prince evokes from his followers. That is fervour. That is called real passion.
Gangs of Gangulys
There are followers and then there are Sourav Ganguly followers. While Sachin Tendulkar may be a demi-god in India, fans have elevated Ganguly to the status of a champion. This is not true of just those in Kolkata or the state of West Bengal.
With the man marshaling his men in the Warriors' camp, Pune can be assumed as a city right behind Ganguly. Huge pockets of fans elsewhere continue to pledge their support to him and have surely been pleased. Even at the Feroze Shah Kotla in New Delhi, the word was: May Pune lose but let Ganguly drive through the covers, all the way to the fence.
While the Knight Riders may not give away easy runs to Ganguly and may have already done their homework on him, Ganguly and his fans can rejoice from the fact that while the opposition focuses on him, there is a chance they lose sight of other power-players. After all, a Pune win will be a Ganguly win as well, especially as he looks intent on emphasising he still has the age-old magic in him.
Requiem for a dream? No way!
There is little doubt that Eden Gardens is a symbol of cricket. There is even lesser doubt that Ganguly is a symbol of Eden Gardens, having played most of his cricket here. When he walks out in the Indian Premier League match, he surely will walk out against the Knight Riders and not Kolkata.
And yet, for all his prowess, fans at the stadium will surely find themselves at crossroads at some stage of the match. Perhaps it will be a case of letting Ganguly shine despite Kolkata's win. Or it may be a corollary case of sacrificing Kolkata for Ganguly's redemption. In either case, true Bongs and the Bong in every Ganguly fan will surely hope for a royal gleam from the true Prince of Kolkata.