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Six standouts in the stands
The devotee

The devotee

On Day IV, many ' even habitual late risers ' had managed to reach the ground on the dot of 9.30 am, steered by the anticipation of a Sourav-Rahul partnership. But to their surprise, play had already started to empty galleries. Only he was there, the devotee, in his seat, lost in his own world where cricket competes only with cricket. 'They played some six overs less yesterday, so I knew play must be starting early,' he explained to the now familiar faces as they trickled in. That is a cricketing brain Mr Mike Brearley would love to pick. This is his 50th year of watching cricket at the Eden. 'I had started with the New Zealand tour in 1955-56,' he had announced on Day I, by way of introduction during the drinks break. That was one of the few sentences he had spoken, so engrossed he was in the action. There he would sit, silently, session after session, as if someone had played the 'Statue' game on him. Finally, when on Saturday morning Sourav fell to a suicidal pull, something stirred deep within the wells of devotion. 'Just drop him from the Test side,' he said with a cold finality. The quarter-smile was back in place when Dravid and Co. repaired the early damage.

Extras: For him, the Eden ground is a place of worship and the game is God. So, he prefers the copybook style of cricket-watching: a sense of silence, measured clapping, standing ovation for every extraordinary performer, friend or foe.

The expert commentator

The expert commentator

Blessed ' and damned ' are those who take a seat near him. For those addicted to the TV set back home, he makes sure the commentary never takes a commercial break. For those treating a trip to the ground as a great escape from the small screen, he is torture by no other name. Harsha Ki Khoj could begin and end with him, for he has an opinion on everything ' from the pitch to the toss to the batting order to the field placing to the ball bowled to the stroke played to the declaration' This expert is captain ('There's no need for a second slip, he should be at short cover, instead'), coach ('With two wickets down, just stick to the singles'), physio ('Pathan should do more stretching exercises before starting a spell'), weatherman ('The breeze from the Hooghly is about to blow, Sourav should bring on Balaji'), umpire ('Even my mother-in-law is better than Bucknor')'

Extras: If there's ever been a better all-rounder in Indian cricket than Kapil Dev Nikhanj, it is the expert at Eden. Pity he never captained Team India.

The family man

The family man

He dragged in three bags, plonked them on the best seats and stood guard as son and wife followed. No, the family wasn't boarding the Rajdhani. This was the Eden. As the three settled down to the family outing, out came two caps, a water pouch, a newspaper sheet' and the grumbles over the cops who had not allowed 'so many important things' into the ground. It was the wife's debut in the stands and soon he was patiently explaining which team India was playing, who Veeru (Sehwag) was, why it was so hot' As the sun climbed, the humidity rose, and the wife's good humour evaporated. She started mulling a trip to her sister's. Spying a threat to the family's perfect day out, he dashed off and returned with a glass of thanda. A family that eats, drinks and watches cricket together, stays together. And that was how it was through the day.

Extras: The picnic crowd keeps growing at the ground these days (unless it is hot as hell), for it has all the ingredients of a family soap, and it's pocket-friendly too.

The cricket-crazy cop

The cricket-crazy cop

If a good view of the ground is worth a kingdom to you, you will know why his seat is a throne. It is right in line of the stumps, at an elevation that allows him to perfectly judge where the ball pitches. He is the cricket-crazy cop. A familiar face that manages to corner Eden duty with the unerring regularity of an Anil Kumble. In his regime, the gallery ground rules are simple: do what you will, just don't get in my way. So it was a merry-go-round in the clubhouse for the first two days. It didn't matter that the batsman was having to face the bowler and behind his arm the tween, the teen, the PYT and the out-for-a-walk type in the rows just above the sightscreen. It was only when a man called Sachin objected on Day III to the movement above the screen did our man on duty get up to work. As soon as things settled down, the cop was back where he belonged: his throne, with eyes glued to the on-pitch action.

Extras: Buddy boy or butt of jokes, the cop who gets in first and gets out last, who so believes that if he hadn't been in uniform he would be in flannels, is just so Eden.

The ignoramus

He was peacefully munching on a fish fry when a roar and a jump of all those around him roused him from his reverie. 'Ki holo, dada (What's happened)' he too sprang up, darting his gaze from field to scoreboard to the skies, back to his neighbours. 'Dibanidra dichhilen naki (Were you sleeping)' snorted one, and returned to the debate on whether Sehwag had made it back to the crease. Left out of the loop, our man Ignoramus decided to get into the act. The fielder at fine leg failed to cut off a classic Dravid leg glance. As the crowd rose to its feet, he too came up with a classic: 'Great cover drive.' And he was left wondering why it wasn't appreciated.

Extras: 'Jab ek aadmi maara to dono kyon daura (If one batsman hit the ball, why are both running)' is one of the many 'student of the game' googlies overheard. So, for all the talk of 'Oh, the Eden crowd is so knowledgeable', the galleries are dotted with those who wouldn't know cricket from baseball.

The show-off

The show-off

She waltzed in. An hour and 15 minutes after play started. Her eyes, sheltered by seductive shades, ignored the furious ' and the fawning ' glances of spectators whose view she was blocking on her traipse up the gallery steps. Will she or won't she (sit beside me), was suddenly the question more vital than should there be a silly point or not. A tantalising pause later, the lady in trendy red Tee lowered herself, softly, on the favoured slab of concrete. Out came the toy field glasses, the tiny mirror, the stylish comb for her locks streaked copper and gold. Her earrings ' three on each lobe ' were enough to elicit a 'Ore, Henry Blofeld pagol hoye jeto (commentator Blofeld would have gone crazy)', from a resident wag. As a section of the crowd gaped at the girl and her beauty-cream battle against the March sun, Rahul Dravid dropped a catch. The crowd groaned; she let out a belated but prolonged sigh. That broke the heart of B block.

Extras: For every show-off she, there's a show-off he these days for whom the ground is a ramp ' designer clothes, designer shades, designer walk, designer talk'

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