Calcutta: After the mother of all soccer derbies, at the Etihad Stadium on Monday, comes the big daddy of IPL matches: Shah Rukh Khan’s Kolkata Knight Riders versus the Sourav Ganguly-led Pune Warriors India.
Shah Rukh and Sourav parted company in January last year, after three seasons of a rather uneasy relationship (forget what was said for public consumption), so any Knights-Warriors clash will mean plenty more than a mere T20 face-off to many.
Owing to the unusual scheduling, the two met only once last season, in Navi Mumbai, where the Knights won with much to spare.
Jagmohan Dalmiya is hoping that it rains, sparing him the agony of having to choose between the city’s favourite son in sport and the franchise which has Eden Gardens as its base, but that wouldn’t be cricket.
Nor would that be fair towards the thousands who braved lathis and debilitating weather to buy tickets for a close look of their Dada.
The Knights realise that home support, which often helps players raise the bar and gets them out of tight situations, may be thin, which is why captain Gautam Gambhir has been talking of his team “belonging” to Calcutta.
Gambhir addressed the media on match-eve, even though the IPL’s advisory had listed coach Trevor Bayliss. It was a smart switch from a team which has been far more smart this season.
The captain, by the way, has been leading from the front.
Gambhir used the occasion to make the points he needed to, emphasising that the sell-out clash was just another game and that it was all about teams, not individuals.
Sourav had taken the same line some weeks ago, when the Warriors were making such a strong impression. Much has happened since, with his team losing four in a row.
On Thursday night, the Warriors even managed the difficult task of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Failing to chase 121, against the Mumbai Indians, could haunt them for the rest of IPL-V.
The result didn’t, however, dent Sourav’s sense of humour.
“I’ve only been recovering after the last four matches! That’s what I’ve been doing,” Sourav quipped, when The Telegraph contacted him as he was about to board the aircraft in Pune.
Perhaps not wanting to add to the hype, Sourav chose not to specifically speak of Saturday’s face-off. “I’ll just say that it’s always great to play at the Eden, which is my ground...”
Outstanding Sourav was in the away game versus the Delhi DareDevils, but he hasn’t made the impact he set out to. So, while it’s a ‘homecoming’, the soon-to-be 40 icon is under pressure.
But, then, Sourav’s used to feeling the heat.
Sourav’s one-time best buddy Rahul Dravid (who is leading the Rajasthan Royals), has been going through a similar experience.
T20 is one big lottery and it could become really tough for those on the wrong side of 30.
Meanwhile, Shah Rukh, who became indisposed after the Knights-Chennai Super Kings match in Chennai, will probably reach the Eden barely minutes before the 4.00 pm start.
If that does happen, then there won’t be an entry-point ‘clash’ featuring Shah Rukh and Sourav.
Instead, watch out for the patent-deserving Shah Rukh hug.
Last month, Dravid was greeted by a roar, which would have carried to Jaipur, when the Royals turned up at the Chinnaswamy for their game against the Royal Challengers Bangalore.
The reception overwhelmed Dravid, who’d turned out for Vijay Mallya’s franchise in the first three seasons of the IPL. But, as with Sourav, he was discarded before the auction for seasons IV and V.
As things stand, you may bet on the decibel count, at the Eden, being higher for Sourav.