The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Adelaide triumph, Calcutta toast
Picture by Pradip Sanyal

The young boys in their milk flannels on the Maidan had set aside their own willow and leather. They were, instead, huddling in front of a transistor from the moment Dravid and Laxman came out to bat after the tea break.

Once Dravid punched the winning runs off MacGill in faraway Adelaide, the kids erupted in unbridled mirth, jiving with joy, raising posters of ‘The Wall’ and hometown hero Sourav Ganguly . Firecrackers warmed up the damp December day as Calcutta, glued to the TV from dawn, exploded in euphoria from Behala to Baguiati, Tollygunge to Tallah Park, toasting the win.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, a self-confessed Sourav fan, led the celebrations from the front. In a message dashed off to the skipper, he wrote: “I congratulate you and your team on the rare feat. All our players deserve high praise.” Bhattacharjee caught “a slice of the action on TV in the morning”, before leaving for Writers'.

While the bearding of the Kangaroos in their own den by Sourav and his men in blue was doubly sweet for all Calcuttans, it was a “very special moment” for Sanat Mitra, too. The 66-year-old had honed the skills of Sourav at the Dukhiram Coaching Centre when the Indian skipper was playing under-15 for Bengal, and was one of the first to focus on his leg-side technique.

“I had seen great early promise in Sourav and always paid special attention to him at the nets. Today, I am glad I had backed the right horse. Although the day belonged to Dravid, Sourav has done all of us proud by pumping belief into his teammates. It’s an unbelievable effort,” he told Metro, in a voice choked with emotion.

Not many in the city would possibly be aware of Mitra's early contribution to the Indian skipper’s ascent to stardom, and he hardly received any laudatory calls. However, the phone never stopped ringing at the Grant Lane office of Sanjib Roy, father of Indian cricket’s first lady Dona Ganguly. “Everyone is happy and I am receiving so many congratulatory calls. It’s a great feeling,” smiled Roy. But, the all-important call from Dona and Sourav was yet to come. “I tried calling them, but couldn't get through,” he added.

Though Dona was spotted in the stands on the fourth day, Roy said his daughter was spending most of the time in the hotel, catching the action on TV.

“I had a long chat with Dona on Sunday and she said with little Sana keeping her on her toes through non-stop pranks, she hardly found time to get to the ground,” Roy said.

The gripping last-day action at the picturesque Adelaide Oval also led to widespread casualties among office-goers. At Writers' Buildings, attendance was markedly thin in the morning, with more people trooping in later in the day, after victory was sealed and savoured. “They had already applied for half-day leave on Monday,” said Aloke Basu, office secretary of the state coordination committee.

The day dawned late at the Salt Lake Electronics Complex, too, as the techies preferred catching the action live on television in the morning. “We normally reach work by 9.30. But today, I left home after relishing the rare moment of glory,” said a senior manager in a leading IT company. Those not so lucky were keeping track of India’s progress on the Net or through short messaging service (SMS).

Traffic on the SMS saw a sudden spurt after the historic win, admitted cell operators in the city. “There was a significant surge in SMS volume today,” said an Airtel spokesperson, while Hutch reported a seven-fold rise in cricket-related SMS traffic. “Over the past couple of days, as the game turned India’s way, the level of interest in the Test match was high, reflecting in the volume of traffic on the network,” said Hutch CEO Sunil Sood.

But will the momentous triumph impact budding cricketers in town' Raju Mukherji, former Bengal captain and trustee, Sunil Gavaskar Cricket Foundation, felt: “At the grassroots level, the achievement is unlikely to carry too much significance, since coaching clinics these days are often nothing but ego trips of parents. The kids’ dreams hardly count."

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