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Eden finds its rhythm & roar

For the first two days, Eden Gardens seemed horribly out of form, much like the hometown hero. On Day III, it regained some of its touch. On Day IV, it is expected to roar back to form, with Sourav Ganguly leading from the front.

If Wednesday and Thursday were dominated by half-empty stands and strangely silent spectators, the Eden crowd came alive on Friday afternoon, with the Mexican wave making a welcome comeback (following a lone aborted attempt on Day I, post-lunch).

'On Day II, it was just not Eden, with even the first ball of the Pakistan innings bowled by Irfan Pathan not being cheered,' complained a cricket devotee reminiscing about the good old days, when the full-throated crowd would get behind Kapil Dev from step one.

The only Indian bowler to be greeted with a cheer on his run-up on Thursday was the Behala boy, and that, too, for the first three deliveries of his opening over.

The decibel devil was back in full blast on Friday. From 'Sachiiiiiin, Sachiiiin' to 'Pakistan hai, hai', it was time to shout out loud.

Synchronised clapping and saucy comments kept the spectators busy, as the Indian bowlers found their rhythm, the Eden crowd found its voice and CAB officials found their fig leaf.

'A number of factors, like the heat, exams, the absence of Shoaib Akhtar and India's average performance in Mohali, contributed to the low turnout on the first two days.

But now, with the match evenly poised, there is a rush for tickets,' said a CAB veteran at the draw of stumps on Friday.

'Ei goromey oto enthu ashey (How can one be so enthusiastic in this heat)' muttered Dibyendu Banerjee, a 41-year-old resident of Netaji Nagar, an Eden regular since 1976.

That was on Wednesday, when the relative humidity soared to 96 per cent.

The student factor weighed heavy on the crowd count, with the ICSE examinations still on, and Higher Secondary 2005, looming large from March 22.

As did the lack of star appeal on the Pakistan side ' 'forget an Imran Khan or a Wasim Akram, there''s not even a Shoaib Akhtar', was the common crib from the section demanding cricket-plus ' and also the low stock of Test cricket in general.

But as Day III ended with a dream Test match scenario of all three results being possible, and the weekend mood setting in, a surge for a place in the stadium was palpable.

If some were desperate to get in, others were dying to get back their entry permit to the stadium, now abuzz.

'With Pakistan in a comfortable position on Thursday evening, I was convinced the game was heading for a dull draw and I gave away my ticket to a friend. I don't know where to get tickets now,' cried Akhilesh Singh, a resident of Bagbazar.

The grounds started filling up on Friday afternoon as Pakistan collapsed and Sachin and Dravid got into the groove, and those in the stadium started calling friends and family.

Cell phones, in fact, started ringing frenetically ever since the fall of Inzamam-ul-Haq.

'Chhobi, chhobi' (picture perfect),' screamed the fans as Sachin smashed Sami to the fence.

And while a half-full stadium was still far from picture-perfect then, the weekend crowd canvas should be closer to what Eden used to be.

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