Eden Gardens filled to the brim, excitement electric and passion indomitable as Kolkata Knight Riders took on Pune Warriors India. However, when the action shifts to five-day games, the fans will disappear, leaving the stands silent and bare.
Arunabha Sengupta wonders whether he is going to miss this Eden crowd during Test matches.
Roads clogged, din deafening, fans flooding the stands to full, almost spilling into the ground – excitement high voltage and electric, passion indomitable. The spirit of Kolkata palpable and bared in the rawest, uninhibited form; ardour and allegiance ripped into two by polarising individuals and events. Every ball an event that stops the flow of time, punctuated by ear-splitting roars egging the earth to move again. The threat of the Nor’wester braved, the reality of numbers brushed away – the frenzy of fans concentrated in a giant emotional whirlpool.
A veteran cricket lover, who has watched Test matches at the Eden since the day Bhagwat Chandrasekhar had bowled India to victory against the West Indies, sent a sorrowful message, at once nostalgic and sad, “It’s like Eden of old, but all this will disappear during the Tests.”
True. The people who diverted and deadlocked traffic as they walked in from all corners of the city, state and even further, would scatter back to their walks of life after the three hour entertainment. Precious few will find their way back when the longest version of the game is hosted at the venue the next time. The youthful Eden of the day, throbbing with the pulse of life, would lose the ensemble like a cancerous old man loses hair, with sad and rapid depletion, till a few strands remain here and there, in scattered loneliness, vast bald patches embarrassingly open to view for the whole world, the voice of unbridled enthusiasm exchanged for the gasping whisper of a noble life consumed by terminal illness.
I will miss this crowded Eden during the five days of the next Test match.
But, wait. Will I really?
Reality show – reality check
Test cricket is meant for connoisseurs, the aficionados of the sublime art that is etched on the vast green canvas by artists in white, the willow for brush and hurtling leather for streaks of paint. Would the crowd of today, if they returned on the morrow to sit through five days, create an atmosphere ideal to enjoy the loftiest of sports?
What had beckoned the teeming thousands to the field today? Not the skills and intricacies of the game, which in any way are pitiably limited in the Twenty20 format. Not the criticality of the encounter in the context of the tournament – with one side running right behind the leader of the table while the other limping to stay just ahead of the rear.
The crowd had donned two different partisan colours, mentally and often physically, and arrived in whopping numbers to witness a showdown of egos – between an aging cricketing icon and a limelight hogging Bollywood superstar. A battle with hardly anything to do with sports, suited far better for coverage and conjecture in the columns of Page 3.
It is depressing when sporting heroes end up in ridiculous television programmes and reality shows, putting their most private human attributes under the cruel global spotlight. However, this hyped-up happening was even worse, with the reality shows emulated under the ostensible guise of a ‘cricket’ match. An audience addicted to such trivialities had turned up to watch this deplorable drama unfold on the hallowed turf. This crowd was as much interested in cricket as the adherent scrupulously following every Facebook update about Aishwarya Rai’s baby-bump is interested in serious cinema.
Indian Premier League (IPL) is a tournament boasting big names – and it ends right there. Having assembled the Sachin Tendulkars, Dale Steyns and Muttiah Muralitharans, the format ruthlessly murders the subtlety and sophistication that makes cricket the noblest of sports. It is akin to assembling Vladimir Kramnik, Viswanathan Anand, Vassily Ivanchuk, Veselin Topalov, Boris Gelfand and the rest of the Grand Masters and engaging them in a round-robin league of Tic-Tac-Toe. Or asking William Shakespeare and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to compete against each other in writing the best one liner as garnish for the ‘Dengar’ sign behind a lorry.
And this was a crowd that flocked to such entertainment, with a stimulating shot in the arm if a Big Boss component was added to the equation.
Will I miss it if this riotous assembly thins out and disappears when real cricket is played? I don’t think so.
At the risk of sounding elitist, I would much rather put my hands together to join the scattered applause for a well negotiated late out-swinger than lend my voice to the frenetic cheers every time an outside edge from a celebrity bat goes for runs.
(Arunabha Sengupta is trained from Indian Statistical Institute as a Statistician. He works as a Process Consultant, but purifies the soul through writing and cricket, often mixing the two into a cleansing cocktail. The author of three novels, he currently resides in the incredibly beautiful, but sadly cricket-ignorant, country of Switzerland. You can know more about him from his author site, his cricket blogs and by following him on Twitter)