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Caught and bowled by the Eden Gardens crowd

What Eden said when and how

Jayanta Basu | Published 19.11.23, 02:36 PM

With India not playing, and already in the finals with a dominant show, an almost packed and totally relaxed Eden Gardens crowd enjoyed the cricket, and themselves, during the Australia-South Africa semi-final with subtle, and not so subtle, comments and banter. Here’re a few of the signature moments:

South Africa abaar harbey (will lose again)

Around 1.30pm, a large group of South African supporters were making their way into the ground in team shirts, with Quinton de Kock’s being the clear favourite. “We will win today,” drove back a young woman from Johannesburg as one lobbed an innocuous “all-the-best” half-volley. She was within earshot of a local spectator also entering the ground through Clubhouse gate No. 2. The elderly man quipped: “Baccha meye, itihas janena. Amra dekhechhi ei mathei kibhabe Clive Rice er team hereche, kibhabe last over e choke kore ek run e Hero cup e herechhe…. Abaar harbey (She is young, doesn’t know history. We have seen how the Clive Rice team lost here or how they choked and lost a match in Hero Cup by one run … will lose again).” The words proved prophetic soon after South Africa went into bat.


London weather and Perth pitch

With South Africa reeling at 8 for 2 in the sixth over under overcast conditions, and Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc bowling with three slips and making the batsmen smell leather, a smart alec commented: “The match is being played on a Perth pitch in London weather.” Another pitched in: “Do not forget Didi wants Kolkata to become London!”

Long-on noy, long-off e dekhun

Spot the friend was the other game that was being played at Eden with spectators trying to locate friends in other stands through mobile calls and hand waving. While some had hand-phone coordination as good as Krishnamachari Srikkanth’s hand-eye coordination when he hit Imran Khan and other Pakistani bowlers out of the park en route to a century in the first-ever ODI at Eden, most were not as good. Just before the match started, one such spectator was trying frantically to spot a friend on the stand immediately right of the Clubhouse while his friend was actually on the left of the Clubhouse. Quick came a quip: “Dada, long-on noy, long-off e dekhun (Look towards long-off, not long-on).”

Warner reminded Brathwaite, Syed Mushtaq Ali

During Australia’s chase, as David Warner tore into Kagiso Rabada, hitting three sixes in one over, spectators went into flashback mode. They remembered how Carlos Brathwaite of West Indies had hit four straight sixes against England at Eden in the last over of the T20 World Cup final in 2016, clinching victory from the jaws of defeat. More impressively, there were old-timers reminiscing about Syed Mushtaq Ali, the original sixer king, who used to hit sixes at the request of spectators. “Well, I have also seen Joel Garner hit very long sixes, almost sending the ball to the Hooghly, in a double-wicket tournament many years back,” said one. “Sei Garner o nei, sei West Indies o nei (We do not have those Garners, and hence, we do not have the West Indies of old),” said his friend, paraphrasing a Bengali saying. Earlier this year, the West Indies, for the first time, failed to qualify for an ICC tournament.

IPL bad habits

Eden-er culture ta gollay gelo,” chuckled one as few young and not-so-young spectators regularly got up from their seats during an over — forcing others in their row to backtrack more than South African batsmen against Aussie pacers — only to grab a popcorn or a soft drink. “Back in the day, no one used to move during an over… these are bad habits picked up during the IPL,” said a spectator. “In an IPL match, a few girls were dancing in front of me even after the bowler had started his run-up,” quipped another. “The organisers should consider allowing vendors to sell food and beverages in the stands; that will minimise this nuisance,” said yet another.

Catches lose matches

When Rassie van der Dussen dived full length to his right at cover and plucked out the ball from thin air to get rid of Mitchell Marsh triggering hope of a South African fightback; a spectator burst out: “Catches win matches.” Another remembered how Roger Harper, the West Indies off-spinner who was also a wonderful fielder, had once gone horizontal in the slip cordon to catch Roger Binny at Eden. Other memories of great catches in Eden came flooding back to the discerning watchers. Later, when South Africa floored one catch after another, the first spectator, with a wry smile, added: “Catches lose matches.”

Ahmedabad, learn from Kolkata

Eden and the Mexican wave have had a long relationship since late 1980s, after the celebration became a trend during the football World Cup in Mexico in 1986. Switching on the mobile flashlight is a newer trend. Though the compere cum cheerleader had been trying to trigger a Mexican wave from the afternoon, Eden chose to start the wave only around 8.30 pm as the day’s favourite, South Africa, started to claw back into the match. There were so many mobile phones flashing light, that the batsmen had to request spectators to switch them off. “In the good ol’ days, some spectators used to try and reflect sunlight into the opposition batsman’s eyes using mirrors to distract him,” guffawed one elderly spectator.

Dubious tactics aside, most spectators felt Ahmedabad had things to learn from Kolkata. “You might have spent money to build a bigger stadium and flaunted power to schedule the most important matches there, but you cannot create a cricket culture out of nothing. See how Eden is full even for a non-India match and compare that with how the opening World Cup match between England and New Zealand was played before empty stands in the Narendra Modi stadium,” said a spectator.

Last updated on 19.11.23, 02:40 PM

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