The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A boon for men in blue

How to tackle the guile of Glenn McGrath and the express speed of Brett Lee in Sunday’s World Cup final' By appeasing Goddess Kali. That seems to be the ploy adopted by followers of the country’s ‘secular religion’ to neutralise the Aussie arsenal.

From early on Saturday, hundreds of cricket-crazy youths — from both the city and the suburbs — thronged Kalighat and Dakshineshwar with a list of common prayers — let our master blasters tear the Australian bowling attack apart and send the coveted Cup back ‘home’ after two decades.

Tricolour bandanas wrapped around their foreheads, members of Sports Lovers’ Association from south Calcutta were queuing up in front of the Kalighat temple.

“We have asked Ma for the Cup, nothing more,” said Shantanu Chowdhury from Belgachhia, holding a dali and Sourav’s garlanded photograph.

‘Devotees’ from the suburbs also flooded the Dakshineshwar temple. Amit, Uttam and Kamalesh had come along with others from Hridaypur, on the city’s northern fringes, armed with a 150-ft Indian flag and a replica of the World Cup. After uttering a pulverise-Ponting mantra, they released three pigeons painted with tricolour stripes into the afternoon air.

“We have turned vegetarian since the Kenya match. Tomorrow, we will eat nothing till the last ball,” said Amit. “Let Sachin teach Lee and McGrath a lesson... we will break our fast together.”

Suvajeet Choudhury had come all the way from Seoraphuli in Hooghly with his friends with a prayer to save Sehwag from yet another early exit. “Ma Kali ke bollam,Veeru-r bhaggo phiriye dao (I prayed to the Mother to help Sehwag return to form),” the 20-something beamed. Aloke Mukherjee, a member of the Kalighat temple committee, said: “People are coming in with a single wish —India’s victory. Some are staying back the entire day to worship the goddess.”

If some were temple-bound, others headed for the market. And making hay were the likes of Sohail Ashraf, who did brisk business at his Gariahat stall selling giant posters of Indian cricketers. A veteran in the trade for seven years, he has never had the going so good. “Sales peaked after India trounced Pakistan. I used to sell six-seven posters on the match days till the Super Six stage but now I am selling 75-80 a day,” said Sohail.

India jerseys were also fast disappearing off the racks. At the Pantaloons Gariahat outlet, more than 150 pieces had been sold on Saturday by the afternoon. For the likes of the Puddapukur-based Doshis, who had bought a blue shirt each, this is the time to “keep faith and show your true colours”.

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