Kolkata: Summers are unbearable in this part of India but the ‘City of Joy’ leaves no stone unturned when it comes to participating in a sports event. Calcutta (now Kolkata) is stereotyped for its football madness but the frenzy is ten notches higher during Indian Premier League (IPL).
“We have five seasons. Spring, summer, IPL, monsoon and winter,” said Animesh Banerjee, a cricket fanatic, who has hardly missed a game at the Eden Gardens right from the days of Sunil Gavaskar.
The 71-year-old man has lived his life by sports and was queing up outside the stadium on Saturday to catch a glimpse of the cricketers. “Earlier, I used to be a referee in local football matches but when I first saw Kapil Dev, I got inclined towards cricket,” he added.
Nonetheless, the final of the cash-rich T20 tournament will be held here in some hours and to the delight of the fans, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings have managed to cross the barrier for the sixth time to meet Mumbai Indians.
One may wonder why the Dhoni worship? Well, the Bengalis believe in three things in terms of fandom – geographical boundary, a connection with Kolkata and struggle.
“Since Ranchi is very near to Kolkata, we would rather support Dhoni’s team and not Mumbai,” said Ravi, a 30-year-old hawker, who – unlike other Sundays – will down his shutter and head to Eden.
That’s not all. Banerjee added: “His wife (Sakshi) is from here and Dhoni has struggled a lot in his younger days. I have heard stories of him being a ticket collector in Kharagpur (also in West Bengal). Come on, he deserves our support.”
Even at Wankhede Stadium, the yellow flags at times outplayed the blue but at Eden, Dhoni’s boys have a strong competitor. None other than the legendary Sachin Tendulkar – the city’s adopted son.
“People consider Sachin Tendulkar to be Sourav Ganguly’s younger brother and they all love him like their own son. Hence, Dhoni has competition,” asserted Ravi.
Tendulkar had played his penultimate Test match here and one of his fan clubs, from the northern part of the city, recollected that day.
“We are only here for God (referring to Tendulkar). He has nothing left to prove. Even if Mumbai loses, we will consider it to be God’s gift to Dhoni,” said one of them.
However, it remains to be seen who has the last laugh. Tendulkar behind the scene or the boy behind the wicket.