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Eyewitness at Eden: Rain fails to spoil KKR’s farewell party against MI

A comprehensive all-round performance saw the Knights seal their playoffs berth

Debrup Chaudhuri | Published 17.05.24, 04:23 PM
Eden Gardens during the mid-innings lights show for the match between KKR and MI on May 11

Eden Gardens during the mid-innings lights show for the match between KKR and MI on May 11

Photos: Debrup Chaudhuri

Bidding farewell to the Eden Gardens is never easy, even if it is just for one season. But at least the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) did so in style against the Mumbai Indians (MI) in a match that saw the rain gods show up before the players. As promised, I was there to soak it all in (sometimes quite literally!), remaining strictly neutral in the process.

Reaching Eden in my RCB jersey once more, I kept my fingers crossed, hoping to wish away the rain. Just then, the skies opened up even more with the threat of an abandoned game looming large. With time in hand and not much to do apart from munching on some chips, I found a KKR supporter (ironically dressed in blue) who had turned up with not one but three posters. He had designed and printed them himself. “I got these posters printed the day before the game. I’ve come to a few games at Eden before. Last year, I came with a portrait of Andre Russell,” said Raj Chand, the 24-year-old KKR loyalist from Bankura.


Painted cheeks, Russell on fire and a lucky charm

KKR fan Raj Chand (right)

KKR fan Raj Chand (right)

Sitting at Eden and watching it pour is a unique experience in itself. Occasionally. you tend to zoom out of the game and turn philosophical, perhaps even melancholic. You wonder how, for all its riches and technological advancements, cricket is still at the mercy of nature’s whims. Those who did not have any time for such reflections were the ground staff, who did a fantastic job in getting the field ready once the rain stopped. We were finally going to get some action, even though the game was reduced to 16 overs per team (why not play for another 40 minutes or so and bowl all 40!)

After the fall of the KKR openers within the first seven balls, including Sunil Narine getting bamboozled by Jasprit Bumrah’s yorker, I saw a young boy in blue with painted cheeks take his seat. He was accompanied by his father and his cheeks read “BUM” and “RAH”, respectively (I am glad he did not run out of paint before painting his second cheek!). As KKR steadied the ship through Venkatesh Iyer and Nitish Rana, the boy’s painted cheeks huffed and puffed, with the taunts of KKR supporters enough to remind him that he was in enemy territory.

As the overs went by in a tizzy, Andre Russell, in tandem with the Eden DJ, brought the crowd to their feet, with the West Indian striking some meaty blows. Right on cue, I decided to have it on record on my phone. The first three balls I recorded went for four, six and four. The KKR fans around me screamed in unison: “Don’t stop recording!” But my role as a lucky charm was reduced to a cameo, as Venkatesh Iyer was dismissed by Piyush Chawla soon after.

The mid-innings lights show was pleasant to look at, but nothing in comparison to what I experienced at the same venue during the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup last year.

KKR players on a victory lap before the playoffs

KKR wrapped up their home season in style and now march on to the business end of the competition

KKR wrapped up their home season in style and now march on to the business end of the competition

Before the game, I was quite curious regarding how the Eden crowd would respond to Hardik Pandya. Thankfully, there was no overt hostility directed at Pandya, though the KKR faithful expectedly enjoyed the MI skipper being taken on by Rinku Singh. During the second innings, a row of five people, all MI fans, rooted vociferously for Pandya, but they left as soon as their main man was out.

The loudest applause of the night, however, was reserved for Rohit Sharma (a future Knight, perhaps? Abhishek Nayar may know!), when the Indian captain came out to bat as an impact player, with his team needing 158 runs in 96 balls to win. KKR bounced back after conceding 65 runs for the first wicket with a cluster of breakthroughs. Once Tim David was sent packing for a duck at the start of the 13th over by Russell, the match was firmly in the grip of the Knights. But Naman Dhir had other ideas, as he swung the game back into balance with some of the cleanest hitting I have seen at Eden this season. But far from being cowed down by Dhir’s destruction, the KKR fans responded by doubling down on their support for the Knights. Gautam Gambhir was right when he said that KKR has the most loyal fans in the IPL, since the stands were packed even as the clock ticked well past midnight.

A heroic last over from Harshit Rana meant that KKR eventually saw off the late flourish by Dhir and sealed victory by 18 runs, good enough to take them top of the standings and become the first team to qualify for this season’s playoffs. Once the game was over, the Knights took a victory lap around the stadium, bidding farewell to their fans for this year by tossing signed merchandise into the stands. Rinku, for his part, grabbed hold of the biggest KKR flag he could find and waved it with all his might!

As I left Eden with the hope of returning next season as your Eyewitness once more, I wondered if I had seen the next champions of the IPL take their latest step towards the title. Eden may have shut its doors for the season, but KKR’s most important phase for 2024 is just getting started.

Last updated on 17.05.24, 05:01 PM

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