The bunch of buddies from Sikkim during the IPL match between KKR and Sunrisers Hyderabad at the Eden Gardens on Saturday. Picture by Rith Basu
The cheerleaders at Block L of the Eden Gardens on Saturday were in their 40s and, er, male.
Dancing to every six or wicket, the 10 fast friends from Namchi in Sikkim — a mix of teachers, bank managers and government employees — put up a show that rivalled Yusuf Pathan’s 22-ball 72 in energy and fun.
They let their rainbow-coloured wigs down, sang, danced and rolled their eyes behind fancy paper goggles after every missile that Yusuf dispatched to the boundary or the stands.
“We come to Calcutta to watch at least one IPL match every season. This time we weren’t sure because KKR lost to Mumbai last year and RCB the year before. What a blunder it would have been to have not come,” said Anup Baniya, the group’s 40-year-old livewire and a forest department employee.
“My students had warned me, ‘iss baar jitake hi aana’ (return with a KKR win),” winked Ramesh Pradhan, a senior school mathematics teacher at Gumchi.
The annual IPL trip is a “boy thing” for the group that keeps together because of sports. Several of them had played cricket for the Sikkim under-19 team.
They come to Calcutta for two days, without their families, and relive their “bachelorhood”.
When Knight Sunil Narine was sending down his turners on Saturday, Anup regaled the crowd near him with jokes that impressed the young and the old alike. He even showed his dance moves to DJ Girish’s tracks… Om Shanti Om and Gandi Baat.
It was past 10pm — the decibel curfew time — when the Knights were on song but without any background music. That was the time when the dancing reached a crescendo, sometimes on the plastic chairs. Even security had turned their backs on the prancing group.
“Dance, uncle dance,” prodded the kids on rows behind the men from Sikkim after every Knight four or six.
The uncles obliged readily.
The uncles were unstoppable — and so was the 65,000 crowd at Eden — when Yusuf raised the tempo to cricket’s equivalent of vivace. “I have never seen a thumping performance like this from any team in the IPL. We won the tournament in 2012 but I don’t remember a victory that comes close to this one in terms of comfort and domination,” said Manish Singh, a 24-year-old techie, seated near the Sikkim group.
The fans were in a trance even when a wide ball ended the match.
There was no hurry to get out of the stadium and every word during the presentation ceremony was cheered. “Yusuf, Yusuf!” the crowd roared — in the stadium and outside.