Much like the quick-format T20 version of the game made popular by IPL, Team Calcutta pulled off a show, as convincing as the KKR win at Chepauk, to fete the Knights in less than 24 hours.
The city was still rejoicing Sunday night’s IPL victory when chief minister Mamata Banerjee gave Calcuttans more reason to smile — the party would continue with a felicitation ceremony for the winning team on Tuesday, she announced at 1.30pm on Monday.
Racing against time, the back-room boys managed to get the minutest of details — from the flavours in the sandesh cake to the inscription on the gold lockets — right.
The preparations began with mayor Sovan Chatterjee sending an official communication to city police commissioner R.K. Pachnanda that the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) would honour the IPL champs in front of Writers’ Buildings and at Eden, where entry would be free for all. The plan was conveyed to the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) around 2.30pm.
Representatives of the three agencies met to divide the work and set the ball rolling.
Senior police officers drew up a blueprint for traffic and security arrangements and the final order was out by 11.15pm on Monday, after which it was passed on to the respective officers. Cops took position from 7am on Tuesday.
The security plan for the 16 gates at Eden too was finalised by Monday night. “Managing the crowd in an entry-free Eden was something new. We concentrated on the clubhouse entry as that gate had restricted entry for common people but was likely to attract the maximum crowd leading to chaos,” said a senior IPS officer.
At least seven teams coordinated with 15 police stations and different units of the police to ensure that everything, including cordons, chairs and even water pouches, was ready by Monday night. A control room was set up at the police commissioner’s post at Eden and a podium erected inside the stadium.
“I returned to Calcutta from Chennai on Monday afternoon and went straight to Eden. I went home only at 2am. I couldn’t even receive the team on Monday night as I had to meet the mayor and the police commissioner,” CAB joint secretary Bishwarup Dey said.
The civic body’s work was no less challenging. It had to select gifts for the Knights besides setting up two makeshift stages outside Writers’. A reputable jewellery showroom was contacted and gold chains and lockets with “Bengal loves you” inscribed were delivered to the mayor’s Behala home by 8pm on Monday. Pyjama-panjabi sets were also picked up and gift-wrapped.
Raya Bhattacharya, who anchored the Eden event, was called to Lalbazar police headquarters for a briefing on Monday. “I received a call in the evening and was asked to attend a briefing session in the commissioner's room, where I was given the minute-by-minute schedule for the programme,” Raya said.
“I was more excited than nervous. I have hosted many high-profile events for Didi but this was special…. I had chalked out a structure in my head but the crowd went berserk and the entire show was full of impromptu moments. I just went along with the joyous tide,” said Raya, whose “moment of glory” came when she “shared the platform with Shah Rukh Khan”. “I got to watch (a superstar) from so close on my first attempt at compering a show before a sea of people at the Eden Gardens.”