Calcutta, March 13: As Team India pulled the chain on the Rawalpindi Express in Karachi’s National Stadium, life slowed down on the streets of Calcutta.
With Calcuttans choosing to remain indoors and catch the action live on either Ten Sports or Doordarshan, everything from poll planning to weekend shopping came to a pause.
As Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag went berserk, cricket fever peaked early.
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee reached the party headquarters on Alimuddin Street dot at 9 am, as usual. But it was to be a day of little work and lots of play as the television replaced the talks table as the centre of attraction.
“I would have been happy to watch the cricket uninterrupted, but unfortunately that was not to be. I had to work and attend meetings,” grumbled Biman Bose, Left Front chairman, who spent the entire day in the party office, but did not miss any chance to catch up with the match.
Somen Mitra went a step further — refusing to mix cricket with Congress, he had instructed party workers not to call him unless there was an emergency. “This was no ordinary match and I did not want to miss it,” he explained.
But it was all in a day’s work for Dona Ganguly, who was not glued to the on-field action of the boys in blue led by husband Sourav. She was busy with students of her dance school, Diksha Manjari, till the final few overs.
“I only watched the last two overs of the Pakistan innings and not their entire batting. I wasn’t tense,” smiled Dona.
It was a ‘cricket holiday’ at several offices and business establishments. A senior manager with a foreign bank at Dalhousie Square said the footfall was “remarkably low”, but those who did turn up stayed on in the office canteen till the last ball was bowled.
Even Saturday shopping was hit, with men steering clear of the shops and plazas. “Saturday was the penultimate day of our annual discount sales, but there were hardly any men visible while the match was on. The off-take was more or less normal from the women’s section,” said R.S. Rekhi, operations head, Pantaloons.
At INOX, cricket scored over the movies with giant screens beaming the Karachi clash and celebrations marking the end of the match.
“We had put up two giant screens near the fast-food counters for live telecast of the match. There was hardly any place to stand in front of the screens and we had to even deploy extra personnel to maintain order,” said an official at the multiplex.
But then there were those who had to keep track of the scores while on the move. At Metro stations, at least, commuters could tune in to a few deliveries or maybe an over on the TV sets on the platforms.
As it went down to the wire, comments from the crowd swung violently from “India is winning, 100 per cent” to “India has perfected the art of losing matches”.
Some cricket fans could not keep up with their heroes’ exploits for most of the match. Those like Ashish, a resident of Tollygunge, appearing for Madhyamik 2004. The physical science paper on Saturday ensured that Ashish and his fellow students were denied the chance to watch the One-Day International.
“While everyone else is either watching or talking about the India-Pakistan match, me and my friends are either having to prepare for our exams or appear for them,” complained Ashish.
Also playing spoilsport — but only for a few minutes — was a “temporary solar interference” that briefly prevented transmission around 12.30 pm on Ten Sports. “We received a number of calls as the screens went blank for a few minutes. Luckily, the interruption did not last long,” said a cable operator.
At the end of the day, former Indian opener Arun Lal summed up the city’s sentiments: “The finest of batting performances by both the teams, records being rewritten and a dramatic Indian victory — what else can one ask for from the first match of such an important series'”