A young Calcuttan enjoys the first spell of rain in 20 days on the terrace of a north Calcutta apartment at 12.33pm on Sunday. The weather office has forecast more rain, including on Tuesday, when the Kolkata Knight Riders play Kings XI Punjab in the first qualifier of IPL at the Eden Gardens under floodlights. Picture by Sayantan Ghosh
Fans of KKR stood in the rain for hours on Sunday morning to buy tickets to Tuesday’s IPL play-off, spurred by the stellar show on Saturday night when it had rained sixes from Yusuf Pathan’s bat.
“Baarish ki parwa nahi hain, bas ticket mil jaaye (I am not bothered about the rain, all I want is a ticket),” said 16-year-old Pankaj Surana, wearing a cricket helmet to protect himself from the shower that tapered down to a steady drizzle.
More rain is forecast over the next 48 hours but hope never dies in the brave new world of T20 cricket, as Pathan’s “unbelievable” 72 off 22 balls against Sunrisers Hyderabad at the Eden Gardens proved the other night.
It wasn’t just the (overdue) shower that the fans braved. The Mohammedan Sporting Club ground had turned slushy within half an hour of the sky opening up and the cold stare of the mounted police ensured nobody got out of line.
Umbrellas and handkerchiefs were hurriedly whipped out of handbags and backpacks as the intensity of the rain increased. Those who didn’t have any cover chose to get drenched rather than relinquish their spot and let go of the chance of getting a ticket.
The sluggish pace at which the queue advanced under a steady drizzle may have put even Sunil Narine’s economy rate to shame, but few were heard complaining. Most of the 1,000-odd fans in the six queues that had started forming by 6am hadn’t bought tickets to the first of the play-offs earlier because they weren’t sure the Kolkata Knight Riders would feature in it until Saturday night.
| A mounted policeman keeps watch on the queues in front of the IPL counters at Mohammedan Sporting Ground on Sunday morning. Picture by Amit Datta
Pathan’s blitzkrieg against Sunrisers helped KKR reach their target of 161 within 15 overs to pip Chennai to the second spot by virtue of a better net run rate and a chance to play the first qualifier at home. The giant screens at the Eden Gardens almost immediately flashed a message confirming that tickets would be available at the Mohammedan Sporting Ground counters the next morning.
College friends Piyali, Aritraa and Subhankar will write their semester examinations on Monday but couldn’t resist the opportunity of watching Gautam Gambhir and his team’s match on Tuesday. They stood quietly in one of the queues from 11am with about 200 others ahead of them.
“After watching the match last night, we just have to be there on Tuesday. We first went to an outlet in Salt Lake but after failing to find tickets there, we immediately took a taxi to come here. But it’s so crowded!” said Piyali, a resident of Salt Lake.
As the queues grew longer and the mounted police more stern, there were whispers that the counters were running out of tickets. Every now and then, someone would ask a friend to “stand in for a second” while he tried walking up to a counter to enquire about the availability of tickets. But the cops wouldn’t allow anyone get near the counters without being in a queue.
Occasionally, there would be a roar in the ranks, not because of the rain intensifying but due to someone trying to jump the queue.
Thirteen-year-old Surkhaab Singh Sandhu was among those who sacrificed his extra hours of sleep on Sunday to stand in the rain, but not because of Robin Uthappa and Narine. His heart beats for Glenn Maxwell and David Miller.
“I am a die-hard Kings XI Punjab supporter because I grew up there. I am hoping to watch a lot of sixes hit by Miller and Maxwell,” said Surkhaab, raindrops dripping from his hair.
Accompanying him was his 14-year-old friend and neighbour Vishwas Chandra, a KKR loyalist. “I was at the Eden Gardens on Saturday night and I want to relive the magic on Tuesday and I am willing to get drenched for that!” he said, glancing nervously at the long queue ahead of him.
Of the six open counters, four were for fresh tickets and two reserved for redemption of online purchases. While those who decided to buy their tickets offline had to bide their time in queues of 300 people long, fans who had already purchased online got their tickets within 10 minutes.
Kunal Mullick, 21, was at the receiving end of envious looks as he walked past hundreds of others waiting for hours. Kunal had booked tickets online on Friday and got them from the counter within 10 minutes of arriving. “It took me several times longer (over an hour) to reach here from New Barrackpore,” he said.
Samhita Chakrabarty from Andul arrived at 10.30am, an hour-and-a-half before Kunal, but had to wait until 15 minutes after he had left to get her ticket. “Finally!” she exclaimed. “I have done my part, I hope the KKR players do theirs on Tuesday.”
At 9pm, only the Clubhouse Upper Tier tickets (Rs 3,000 each) were available online.
“There’s been a huge demand for tickets. The last time I remember this kind of a craze was in 2012 before KKR was to play Pune Warriors India with Sourav Ganguly in the visiting team! We have been getting calls for tickets all day,” a CAB official said.
Some of the faces in the queues at the Mohammedan Sporting Ground for tickets to the
KKR-Kings XI Punjab play-off on Tuesday
“We have our semester examinations tomorrow but after Saturday’s breathtaking win, we knew that we just had to get our tickets as early as possible”
“I’m a die-hard Kings XI Punjab supporter and want to see Maxwell and Miller outdo Pathan and Uthappa on Tuesday”
Surkhaab Singh Sandhu
|Surkhaab Singh Sandhu (right) and Vishwas Chandra
“I am a KKR loyalist. I was at Eden on Saturday and want to re-live the experience on Tuesday as well.”
“I am an all-rounder like Kallis and hope to watch him up close. The win last night has really charged me up”
“I bought the ticket on Friday and kept desperately hoping that KKR would make it. I couldn’t believe my eyes when we chased 161 in 14.2 overs.”
“We didn’t really care about the rain. All we were worried about was that the tickets should not get sold out. Can’t wait for Tuesday”
Samhita Chakrabarty (with Anmoy Das)