| A mock funeral procession of the team in Calcutta. Picture by Amit Datta
Lucknow/Calcutta, Feb. 16: Since yesterday evening, the most popular message flashing on cellphones across the country has been: “Let’s make one promise as Indians today…Not to buy any product which has Indian cricketers as models.”
Angry fans can’t get at Sourav Ganguly and his boys, so their television replicas have became the hate figures. Hit them where it hurts: where the moolah comes from.
One of the boys, however, got hit where it actually hurts even more. Some unidentified persons painted the wall of Mohammed Kaif’s family house in Allahabad black after yesterday’s dismal performance against Australia.
“I can understand their feeling, but it makes us nervous,” said Mohammed Asif, Kaif’s brother. Fearing more, the family has sought police protection.
“When we woke up this morning, we saw our boundary wall smeared with black at half-a-dozen spots and were told that they are going to burn his effigy,” he added.
Asif was alone in the house at Keetganj as his sister and parents had left for fear of public fury.
Allahabad superintendent of police Vijay Kumar confirmed the incident but denied that there was any danger to the cricketer’s family. “We are taking proper care of the family and will not allow anything to happen to them.” he said.
Ironically, it was a Saturday last July when Kaif shone with his spectacular 87 to in India’s victory against England at Lords. “Twinkle, twinkle little star, Mohammed Kaif is the superstar” — lanes around the house had reverberated with this slogan.
Today, fans were planning to burn his effigy when police swung into action.
Burning was also on the minds of fans in Calcutta, the captain’s hometown. In front of the Eden Gardens today, they carried a bed with pictures of the cricketers and called it antarjali yatra, funeral procession, and shouted slogans.
Depicting the final procession Antarjali Jatrayoung boys carried a bed decorated with garland of shoes and shouted slogans against the Indian team in front of CAB club House.
“Why doesn’t Ganguly take a bit of ayurvedic chavanprash to steady himself'” screamed Joyprakash Ghosh, referring to a commercial featuring Sourav.
Television is setting the pace for protests also.
A 15-year-old stood out with a poster in a crowd of angry young men and women in south Calcutta’s Bhawanipur: “Takar pechone na daure mathe dauro (Don’t run after money, run in the field).
If money does the talking for cricketers — example, the dispute over signing World Cup contracts with the International Cricket Council — and why not, it’s doing all the talking in the streets and drawing rooms of India.
In response to the SMS on his cellphone, at least one person has decided to boycott products endorsed by the players. His name: Saurav — Saurav Sengupta — of Sachin Tendulkar’s city Mumbai, which understands money better than most others.
At Bhawanipur, a silent protest by the local people, who wrote slogans and pasted them on walls and put together placards, carried on through the day.
“Prince of Calcutta” Sourav was referred to as the “Bengal Tiger” with biting sarcasm, and again a TV commercial as the reference point. “Sourav is better off snatching a crateful of cold drinks from a lion,” shouted Harinath Bhattacharya.
A crack at Victoria Memorial Hall, where an exhibition of Italian fashion opened today, made another suggestion: a printed silk “Tiger” dress by the designer Roberto Cavalli and made famous by supermodel Cindy Crawford should have been sent to Sourav.
In this all-pervasive black mood, though, there was still the occasional spark of optimism. Arup Biswas, the councillor who had organised a yagna a few days ago to bring good fortune to the India team, hoped that God would listen to his prayers and smile on India in the next match.
“I am not taking any chances. Maybe, there was something amiss in the yagna. I went to the Kali temple today to seek forgiveness for anything that could have gone wrong at the yagna. I am sure India would win the next match,” he said.
Mayor Subrata Mukherjee, who took part in that yagna, quipped: “If we had not organised the yagna, India would not have even crossed 50 runs.”
They did score 125, didn’t they'