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Prayers to police protection

Calcutta, March 23: The Behala home of Sourav Ganguly started the day as a place of pilgrimage for the cricket-lover. It ended the day seeking safety in a police ring thrown around it.

One would have thought that the 2/6 Biren Roy Road (East) home of the Team India skipper -- lionised and then vilified in quick succession several times in the past -- would be safe from the mood swings of cricket fans.

Today, however, the Ganguly home was vulnerable to various emotions as Team India flattered in the run-up to the final to deceive in the last round. After all, everyone felt today was the local lad’s biggest day in international cricket.

The day began a little early for the first family of Indian cricket with Sourav’s wife Dona preparing herself for a special half-hour prayer for the team.

A priest was called in to perform puja as Dona shuttled between her parents’ place and her in-laws’ home in the same locality, family sources said.

Around 9 am, Sourav’s father Chandi left for Kalighat with some family members. “A win against Australia is an impossible task but I think Sourav’s Team India can make it,” said a cousin, who refused to be named.

Just before the match, Sourav’s excited uncle Debasis was standing on the road in front of the house, surrounded by neighbours, their faces smeared with tricolour abir.

An optimistic Debasis said: “The atmosphere is electric inside the house and the whole family, charged up, will cheer Maharaj from our own dressing room.”

A tense Chandi, who was pacing up and down the house portico, disappeared inside when some youths rushed to the gates and looking towards him, punched the air and shouted: “Jeetega bhai jeetega, India jeetega.

Not just local residents, even others from far away places turned up outside the Ganguly home. For instance, Sunil Chandra, who came all the way from Kharagpur, and Amita Saha from Contai. They asked around and zeroed in on the house and sat down in front of the gates.

The crowd’s upbeat mood, however, underwent a change by the time Australia had batted their way out of India’s reach. The Sunils and the Amitas, who went away disappointed, were replaced by neighbours.

A few were heard cursing Sourav for his lack of “captain’s insight” in letting Australia take the strike on a “batting wicket”.

The mood turned palpably angry moments after Sachin was dismissed. Police then entered the lane and cordoned off the area, screening everybody who stepped on the road leading to Sourav’s house.

After Sourav fell, things became worse. “News” trickled in that a mob had set ablaze the skipper’s posters at nearby Buroshibtala. Dona downed shutters and the anonymous cousin and uncle Debasis were nowhere to be seen.

As more wickets fell, police reinforcements arrived. South 24-Parganas additional superintendent of police Rajesh Singh spoke to Chandi and assured security. Police officials said the crowd’s mood late in the evening was a matter for worry. “But we are ready to face every eventuality and are confident the despondent fans will have sense enough to realise that it was a game,” an official said.

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