Kushal Thacker, Shivani Sureka, Alisha Singh and Simran Srimal braved one scorcher on Sunday to witness another. The mercury was hovering around 41°C but the four college goers from Dhanbad did not budge from the queue in front of the ticket counter at the Mohammedan Sporting Club ground on Sunday afternoon.
“We are not leaving without picking up tickets,” said Alisha, waiting for her turn. The excitement of watching Kolkata Knight Riders in action prompted the gang to purchase tickets online. “It is very hot but the match is going to be hotter. It will be worth the trouble we have taken,” said friend Shivani. Their undaunting spirit reflected the korbo-lorbo-jeetbo attitude of their favourite team.
There were more than 35,000 others like this gang who trooped into the Eden Gardens seemingly to lose themselves in the manic energy of IPL. Long before the stadium opened at 6pm, with two hours to go for the first ball to be bowled, there were thousands queuing up in front of each of the 19 gates. The sea of purple flags, jerseys and headbands had started building up on all the roads leading to Eden Gardens much before the match started. The long strides paused only for selfies. The ground was almost full by the time the two teams marched into the middle.
Debashish Roy was one of the early birds to reach the stadium, accompanied by three friends. They were determined not to miss even a small piece of action, from the toss to the close-up view of players. “In T20, it is just not about cricket. From cheerleaders to the toss, from the disc jockey to stars in the galleries, everything is a part of the IPL experience,” said Roy, who teaches in a south Kolkata college.
Though KKR owner and show-stealer Shah Rukh Khan didn’t show up but the collective roar of a houseful Eden showed what a home crowd can do. Most fans were almost certain of the KKR victory even before the first six of the match was hit. The only prayer on their lips was that Carlos Brathwaite does not inflict too much damage on KKR.
“We have good players. From big hitters to all-rounders. Delhi lacks the firepower to beat us,” said Vikas Kriplani, a businessman who turned up for the match with his six-year-old son.
Delhi Daredevils did have a small pocket of support. Bothers Mirza saqib and Mirza Zeeshan timed their visit to Kolkata from Patna in such a manner so that they could catch Zaheer Khan in action. “We are big fans of Zaheer Khan and since the day he was anointed skipper of DD, we had decided to watch the first match at Eden Gardens,” said Mirza brothers.