|(From top) Gambhir, Dhoni and Anand
Chennai, May 29: The euphoria in Calcutta today begged a question: would Chennai have erupted in similar celebration had the Super Kings won the IPL crown on Sunday?
The answer: a definite no.
Would Jayalalithaa have done for Dhoni and his boys what Mamata did today for SRK and Gauti’s team?
It’s not even certain the Tamil Nadu chief minister would have sent a congratulatory note to Super Kings owner N. Srinivasan — he is perceived as being close to her rival M. Karunanidhi.
But even Karunanidhi as chief minister hadn’t bothered with any celebration when the Chennai team won the IPL Cup the last two seasons, although he is accused of never missing an opportunity to steal a bit of limelight from others’ achievements.
Why then did Calcutta go crazy over one IPL victory when Chennai’s celebrations ended with the final matches though it brought the trophy home twice in succession?
One argument is that the average Calcuttan is more spontaneous when it comes to celebrating a sporting victory or a milestone or simply marching through the streets.
“Remember how entire Calcutta turned up to greet and welcome the South African cricket team when they made their first tour after apartheid was abolished and the sporting ban against them was lifted? I am sure no other city in India would have thrown up such a reception and with no mobilisation of crowds at that,” recalled veteran sports writer Partab Ramchand.
Ramchand also pointed out how in the past, football fans in the city used to march through the streets if their team — Mohun Bagan, East Bengal or Mohammedan Sporting — won any title.
“Calcutta’s sporting fans always had an impromptu celebratory streak unlike other cities,” he said.
When Viswanathan Anand won his last world championship, it was left to a local school in Chennai to organise a small procession over a distance of 3km to his residence, with its own children mobilised to cheer the champion en route. There were hardly a hundred people to greet Anand and only the media was present in large numbers.
“Had Anand been a Bengali, there would have been a stampede at the reception,” said an office-bearer of the Tamil Nadu Chess Association.
Sport historian Ramachandra Guha, however, spied a cleverly managed public relations exercise by chief minister Mamata Banerjee. “I see it more as a well-nuanced political exercise by a new government that had become unpopular in its first year piggybacking on a cricket victory,” he quipped.
Guha also felt that Bengal never had a great cricket hero till Sourav Ganguly brought them much-needed attention. “Ganguly is the only cricketer (to have come) out of Bengal to have made a mark internationally while other states have produced champions all along. Hence, any Bengal-centric cricketing victory is cause for great celebration in Bengal,” he pointed out.
Another cricket writer and former Ranji player V. Ramnarayan attributed “the collective catharsis of Calcutta” to the string of disappointments over KKR’s performance in the IPL in the last four editions.
“Since Ganguly failed to bring home the IPL trophy, the distraught Calcuttan would not have minded even if Shah Rukh Khan had played as a last-ditch attempt to win the trophy. So when Gambhir’s boys won it, the suppressed angst of a city that could not even host the last World Cup final when it was staged in India found vent in today’s euphoria,” he reasoned.
Shah Rukh Khan’s star presence also fuelled the madness, Ramnarayan said.