The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Catch, match & conch shell

For once, it took Sachin Tendulkar’s safe hands, not his stroke play, to uncork celebrations in Calcutta. Even before Inzamam-ul-Haq (caught Sachin, bowled Murali Kartik) could lumber back to the dressing room across the Gaddafi Stadium greens, revelry had revved up on city streets.

From crackers to conch shells, Tricolour to SMS, the tools of triumph were whipped out for a famous victory to be.

First, the fluttering flags. “The demand started picking up as the match progressed,” said a man selling the Tricolour, priced at anything between Rs 5 and Rs 70, near the Bhowanipore Metro station well past 9 pm.

“I have a huge stock and I can meet the post-win demand,” smiled the middle-aged man, waiting for a long night ahead.

Then, the television. It was last day last show at Lahore and Calcutta couldn’t afford to miss a moment of drama.

On Wednesday, hundreds of miles away from the on-pitch action, cricket proved to be the great leveller once again, as babus and businessmen, the young and the old, scrambled to grab a seat — or a foothold — in front of the nearest TV set.

Shops all but downed shutters and business establishments politely postponed customer service as the Behala boy’s men in blue took on the gang in green.

Be it the Left-ruled Writers’ Buildings or the Trinamul Congress-dominated Calcutta Municipal Corporation headquarters, the scene was the same: the imposing structures were virtually empty.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee watched some portions of the match during the day between work. He then left Writers’ earlier than usual. “Of course, India is going to win,” said Bhattacharjee, before leaving. “Haruk jituk, phone korbo (Whether we win or lose, I will call),” added the chief minister, when asked whether he would be speaking to skipper Sourav Ganguly after the match.

There was no mayor or deputy mayor in action at the civic body headquarters. Municipal commissioner Debashis Som, with a reputation for working late into the evenings, left office at 3.30 pm.

Cricket fever caught up with the poll planners, too. Chief electoral officer Basudeb Banerjee convened Wednesday’s press conference earlier than usual, before retiring for a closed-door meeting with senior officials, the all-important TV set on mute.

B.K. Agarwal, a city-based industrialist, had reason to feel even closer to the action than most. Agarwal, along with Exide’s S.B. Ganguly was in Lahore as part of the 42-member business delegation, for the earlier tie.

“I can’t think of a better experience in my life. I will never forget the reception and warmth we received in Pakistan,” said Agarwal, admitting that he was missing being there at the Gaddafi on Wednesday evening. “We were teasing the Pakistani supporters in the stands and they were so sporting,” he recounted.

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