Bruised at Eden

Updated: 03 February 2011 22:34 IST

The World Cup is back in India after 15 years and the enthusiast in me wants to travel across the country and track the fortunes of the Indian team.

Bruised at Eden

The World Cup is back in India after 15 years and the enthusiast in me wants to travel across the country and track the fortunes of the Indian team.

But when it comes to cricket, I've firmly settled  on the couch - or in this case an office chair (a rather comfortable one, if my colleague Kumud will spare me his). That's from where I intend to watch most of the games - cricket is a 4-letter word in my house - I'm allowed an innings of T-20 or sometimes if the wife isn't there a couple hours of test cricket... after all monopolies aren't a good thing and with so many regular demands on the TV, cricket takes a back seat.

But why the couch? For starters its comfy, I get to eat and drink while I watch - distance provides perspective, and in these days of snick-o-meters and stump cams, great perspective .

AND the only World Cup match I went to the grounds to watch left both for me and the nation bruised and sore.

Eliot wrote 'April is the cruelest month of the year' but in Kolkata, March can be equally cruel, if not more...

Over 90,000 people crammed into Eden Gardens at around noon - the match would begin at 2pm - but security concerns meant that almost everybody was seated an hour early.  In the L-stand at mid-on  I rued my decision of not going with my father to the clubhouse  - by 1pm the ruing had turned to cussing - oh what I wouldn't give for the Bijolygrill lunch-packets and  the shade of the club house ( there was no AC then, but atleast there were some fans).

But India was taking on Sri Lanka, it was the semi-final of the world cup  and I had Bhoomba for company. (Boomba- aka Amitava Ghosh- my friend from school, who had both a scooter and a car at his disposal, and a girl from the neighbouring  'sister'  school -  which made him an uber cool 17-year old to hang out with.  Sometimes such names of endearment make me think Bengali parents and relatives are just, plain cruel.)

On producing our tickets as we entered the stands, we'd been handed a 1.5 litre pet-bottle of cola - and by the time the captains walked out for the toss, I'd finished mine - Boomba was wiser, he was doing his best Lawrence of Arabia imitation and held on to his as if we had the Sahara to cross...

Azhar (the Eden favourite) won the toss and invited Sri Lanka to bat - we gasped... Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana walked out  and we wondered how many would they put on... A few days ago in a league game in Delhi they'd  taken the Indian bowlers to the cleaners  and chased down 272 with ease...  That memory must've  been fresh in  the Indian skipper's mind - he did not want to set them up for another chase...

In the first over Jayasuriya slashed - Eden roared - he was caught on third man - and the next ball, Kalu went playing a mirror image - 2 gone for just 1 run on board and India couldn't have asked for a better start - we were jumping for joy... the cola pet-bottles becoming poor 'champagne' substitutes for many... (Boomba  was still waiting for his oasis to arrive)

In walked Aravinda - he crunched a few - at the other end Gurusinha gave him company - but he perished when Sri Lanka was 30-odd... 3 down in the  first 15 overs - Srinath on fire, Lankans on the mat...

And that's  when  the plot started to unravel - first Mahanama, then Ranatunga - the Lankan middle order started getting a few - nothing spectacular but still enough to keep them in  the game (or so we thought at that time) They ended up with 250 -51 from their quota of overs and India needed just over 5 runs an over under the lights.

That was easy-peazy - Sachin 'smashing' Tendulkar could get them all... at 6 pm the crowds were pleased - India was almost there... Boomba went hunting for water - his cola bottle firmly tucked under his arm...

India did not begin tool well either - Sidhu went within the first 15- 20 minutes. Sachin and Sanjay Manjerakar looked to keep us on course... not spectacular but efficient enough - almost a 100 runs were added...

And they started the tumble, first Tendulkar, then Azharuddin for a duck and then Manjrekar - India lost 3 wickets for 5-6 runs as Jayasuriya tightened the screws -  Dharmasena, Murali chipped in...

And another 3 went - a deluge. India lost 7 wickets for 22 runs (I did research this one) and that was simply too much for us to take. First paper sunshades rolled into balls, accompanied by boos, newspaper rolls, etc soon followed, as did the empty water bottles... The crowd was too fried to think rationally - India had collapsed and that was perhaps the only way to express their frustration...

We stood up on the concrete benches (no bucket seats back then in the stands) and joined the 'hai-hai'  chorus. Clive Lloyd called-off the match , awarding it to Sri Lanka, Kambli walked off in tears (why I wouldn't know, he'd played painfully slowly for his 10 runs).

Riot control personnel of the Rapid Action Force had been deployed around the boundary when the crowd had started to get restive - maybe that's what allowed the match to go on for a bit more , for India to slide further...  These personnel now tried dispersing the crowd from the stand  - they tried to shoo us away....

And at that moment Boomba let go off his cola bottle - all 1.5 litres of it filled with a now-lukewarm cola drink - straight at one of the riot-control cops. As it transpired he wasn't alone - some others had (perhaps  of social politeness) 'nursed' their drink - and had the same idea...

Which bottle hit the blue camouflaged men, I don't know... I ran almost the instant Boomba threw - the wicker batons flashed, the cops charged and we ran - out  the compound of the stadium, out on to the road, past the Gostho Pal statue, right across the maidan. Mounted policemen everywhere not wanting to spare the rod, eager to ensure that as the team buses rolled out, the players were not attacked by the irate (and by now bruised and fast-dispersing) mob.

I ran till the Grand Hotel, my father had asked me to meet him there... Baba got his disheveled son something to eat, and as we drove back, innocuously told me 'some Mike Jagger' was sitting right behind him - 'very disturbing it was' he said as people wanted this Jagger guys's autographs.  Wow - that was just how I wanted the day to end... Mike Jagger-ed...

So  now for one-day internationals in general, and the World Cup in particular, I've confined myself to the couch... that, from where I stand, has the best view in the house... and no 'Mike Jagger' surprises.

Topics : Eden Gardens ICC World Cup, 2011 Cricket
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