There were three huge notices on the top of Gate No 9. One was the ICC’s anti-racism statement. One was a picture of Ajit Agarkar having an expression of pure terror on his face, as if he had just came face to face with his doppleganger. And the third was a statement as to how seriously the IPL took ambush advertising and what horrible things would happen to people who bought in an ad for a competing product. Considering the different rights the IPL authorities wished to impose on the paying public, as codified on the back of the ticket (They own the images of people in the stadium, audience members are not allowed to take pictures, the IPL is not liable for any damages etc) I think from next year they should put up another notice saying that they own the organs of people entering the stadium and have the right to remove a kidney anytime they wish.
I was going to Gate No 12, standing in a line which soon became two which soon became three, being jostled and pushed, sweating as I waited to take my Rs 1200 seat. The cops were not interested in crowd control, as they stood some distance away in clumps having their afternoon tea. This left people in the queue to be assailed by vendors selling Rs 50 Korbo Lorbo Jeetbo flags and “unlicensed” KKR jerseys which seemed to have been locally made from purple colored sari “false” and cheap zari. Resisting the urge to buy one of these hideous made in Metiaburuj products, I made a note to self to see if there were some official stores inside the stadium selling KKR gear. I later found there was and the uniforms they were selling seemed also to have been stitched from sari false and cheap zari but were priced twenty-times more. Needless to say, they did not get my business.
Taking my seat inside H block, I found that my view to half the field was blocked by a pillar. Charming. The CAB does take their paying public seriously. Fortunately, there were many empty seats around and I moved to one such. The BRC boys were on my side of the ground—Praveen Kumar was aimlessly walking about like an old man out on an afternoon stroll, Kallis limbered around like a gentle giant and Virat Kohli tried his best to look serious and busy. On the other side of the pitch, Dinda was being used like a beast of burden as he kept on bowling and bowling. Ishant Sharma sent down a few deliveries, one of which knocked out a stump sending the crowd into delirious applause. This wasnt the first time I had watched net sessions before but this was definitely the first time, the quiet experience of watching sportsmen at work was assailed by a DJ who kept on shouting “Hey Kolkata make some noise” as the sound system boomed with songs from “Murali Katrik calling Dinesh Katrik”. This particular gentleman would be a source of constant irritation throughout the evening with his exhortations to do Mexican waves while an over was being bowled “Hey Kolkata Mumbai did six Mexican waves. Can you do better?” with my attempt to concentrate on how Murali Kartik was adjusting his length to Dravid being blocked by morons jumping out of their seats.
My irritation with the DJ was more than compensated by the couple that was sitting in the seat behind me for the first half of the game,sharing a packet of popcorn. She—all nyaka and talcum powder. He—the Bengali uber-male lecturing his girl-friend/wife (all I can say is that they were not brother/sister), his Bengali masculinity characterized by his sab-janta (know-it-all) nature and perhaps his ability to chew on the head of fish without throwing the bones out.
As Shreevats Goswami strolles out to open the innings, the lady turns around and asks her man—-Oi punchke bamon ta ke? [Who is that tiny midget?]. The man replies “Ke jaane. Bodhoye Malluyar chele tele hobe.” [Who knows? Might be the son of Malluya]. Just as I was trying to wrap my mind around this funda, she asked her second question as Karl Langeveldt marked his run-up. “Accha ar oi gobda dekhe takla shada-ta ke?” (Who is that rather fat bald white man?). This time her husband was more confident “Oita hocche Charlie Langto-field.” After deliberating a while on whether the use of the word “Langto” (nude) was merely a lack of knowledge, a Freudian slip, or a result of hearing “Tu nangi acchi lagti hai” from Love, Sex Dhoka too many times, I concentrated on the game at hand.
As KKR applied the stranglehold on BRC and wickets fell, in walked Eoin Morgan. This was one person I was most looking forward to seeing .So evidently was the well-informed couple with the popcorn. Because as he came out, the Neville Cardus ka aulaad behind me declared “That is Deal Ston”. Yes “ston” which is how Bengalis pronounce “stan”. Definitely lot of Love Sex Dhoka going on here. Morgan had all the shots in the book. What he didn’t have was a sense of history or the knowledge of the curse on English players playing the reverse sweep at the Eden to left-handed spin bowlers, a curse that Mike Gatting knows only too well.
The crowd was totally into it. Everytime Ishant ran into bowl, the Eden crowd was solidly behind him with cries of Ishant Ishant rending the air. A glimpse of the King on the large screen was also cheered lustily. Of course all this was nothing compared to the roar that went up whenever Dada dived around , which he did quite well today, only to get up with an air of “Uff what all I have to do” which of course everybody found endearing. The only moment of discomfort for me was when Rahul Dravid came into bat wherein the crowd kind of fell silent and the woman at my back spat out “Eke ami chini” (I know this man) with malice that hit the back of my neck like a breeze from Hell with her husband saying “Biswasghatok” (Traitor). This was the signal for me to stand straight up and applaud Dravid every step of his way to the crease. Dravid started hitting the ball all along the ground with great finesse and the difference in class between him and the rest was immediately apparent. But there is only so much one can do and though Kallis did stay through the innings, it was a soulless inspiration-less phone-in kind of performance, the kind that Brad Hodge is typically famous for.
KKR’s innings started with a vengeance. Manoj Tiwari got his legs wobbled during a run and then went postal hitting everything out of sight. Hodge joined in. With the rate at which they were going, one got the impression the match would finish in ten overs. I think the sponsors were petrified by that possibility. When the first “strategic break” came about, I noticed that the two minute clock did not start “counting” down till after about a minute into the break, thus possibly creating a time window for more advertisements. The Eden crowd did not mind joining in a joyous chorus of “All is well” as Bangalore were being given a pasting, none more severe than on the “Ston” guy.
But then two wickets fell. Dada pottered around and Pujara, with the pressure of the Tiwari innings on him, found himself totally unable to rotate the strike. The only people pleased must have been the organizers as that meant ads could be shown as scheduled. And just when I was dozing off, Dada rolled back the years and sent Steyn into the stands with the shot of the match. Needless to say, I stood up, roared and lost my voice.
With the match finished, I joined the sea of humanity leaving. My feet were trod on twice, an elbow was forced in my face, I had a splitting headache from the heat and my throat was sore. The match wasn’t exciting except to a KKR partisan (which I am not), the cheerleaders did not dance anywhere near to where I was sitting, I could not share a mango drink with Katrina Kaif and KKR’s Chief of Operations, Collen Venning did not make fransip with me.
But still I felt strangely exhilarated, having soaked up the sheer energy of the place. Because heaven this place is. And how could it not be? Its name after all is the Eden, it is a Garden, and it comes complete with its very own popcorn-eating Adams and Eves, blessed with the knowledge of the Gods.