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Tricolours fly off shelves to fly high

Calcutta, March 23: Thousands of people won and lost the World Cup as dusk draped the streets of Calcutta. Fortunes fluctuated, but the flags fluttered tall and bright.

Buoyed by the wave of patriotic fervour that gripped the city, India’s final battle meant swift sales for the city’s Tricolour makers.

“Our family has been in this trade since Independence. But we have never sold as many flags as we did in the last three days,” said Pakhi Dutta, still negotiating with customers as Ponting piled on the runs. Dutta, however, didn’t miss out on the action — on the pitch or on the pavement. Perched on the pavement with his portable black-and-white TV, his flags were selling for anything between Rs 10 and Rs 1,000.

From Baghbazar to Behala, the city was dotted with Tricolours of all sizes — fluttering down the fronts of multi-storeyed buildings, dangling from roadside paan shops, atop autorickshaws and in the hands of fans.

“For the past three days, I have sold flags worth Rs 10,000 to Rs 12,000 per day. I even sold one for Rs 1,000 this morning,” Dutta said. Naturally, with growing demand comes growing premiums. And even half way through the match, the market was still swelling.

Even for those who had shut shop for the day, smiles were more resilient than the Indian attack. It was a roller-coaster ride of hope and despair. The jubilation that survived half-time turned into a gloomy hush as men huddled around TV sets didn’t say a word when Sachin’s wicket fell in the first over.

“We will pray. Allah jitiye debe (Allah will help us win),” said Sikandar, watching the game with para club members off C.R. Avenue.

As the covers came off the Wanderers after the rain disruption, 70-year-old Izhar chacha declared the fight will go on till the last ball of the game.

The 360-run target off 300 balls was not impossible, the boys, between ages eight and 80, were certain. The girls in saffron and green churidars agreed.

Some went against the popular sentiment. “Scoring 360 against the Australian attack is impossible. Only rain can save India,” said Munna Das of Garmil Sangha on Harish Mukherjee Road.

For frenzied fans, however, India’s performance in the run-up to the final was enough consolation. “In every game, there must be a winner and a loser. But coming from where India has, this is enough for us,” said Samar Kundu, a 40-something fan in north Calcutta.

During half time, boys playing street cricket shouted at all cars that passed by: “Ki, India jitbe to (India will win, right)'” The street bowler saluted the thumbs-up that shot out of the moving window and ran his last lap as McGrath prepared for his first.

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