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ICC World Cup 2023

Fans of three teams share stands at Eden Gardens

Supporters cheer on during the South Africa-Australia semi-final clash

Debraj Mitra | Published 17.11.23, 06:34 AM
(From left) Steve Link, Muhammad Seedat and Mehul Kothari in front of the Eden Gardens before the start of the World Cup semi-final match between Australia and South Africa on Thursday

(From left) Steve Link, Muhammad Seedat and Mehul Kothari in front of the Eden Gardens before the start of the World Cup semi-final match between Australia and South Africa on Thursday

If the match was intriguing, so was the contest in the stands.

As the Eden Gardens hosted the first 50-over World Cup knockout match in 36 years, the galleries were divided into yellow and green. But blue was not to be left out either.

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Between every Aussie and South African in the stands on Thursday, there was one in an India shirt who had come to witness history and also take stock of the possible opponent in the final.

As the match swung one way and another, the stands swayed as well.

The Telegraph spoke to a spectator each from all three camps.

Steve Link,
Australia supporter

When Sydney resident Link bought tickets for the World Cup, Australia had lost two of their first three games.

He was in two minds about buying tickets for the second semi-final and the final.

On Thursday, his decision vindicated by the Baggie Greens, Link was waving the Aussie flag as he walked out of Eden.

“The team has peaked at just the right time,” said Link, who works with Sydney Trains, the suburban railway network.

Link, who has seen seven World Cup matches in India so far, including the England-versus Pakistan game at Eden, has learnt some Hindi.

“We have to dismiss khatarnak (dangerous) (Quinton) De Kock as early as possible,” he said earlier in the evening.

De Kock went early but the match still went down to the wire. “Thank God that some sensible batting towards the end saw us through,” Link said on Thursday night.

Link credited David Warner and Adam Zampa for the Aussie turnaround after the initial defeats. “(Glen) Maxwell played that unbelievable innings against Afghanistan. But Warner and Zampa have been very good as well,” he said.

The World Cup experience in India has so far been “splendid”. But Link had one complaint. “The airfares between cities are exorbitant. They are killing me,” he said.

He called the Eden atmosphere “pulsating”. “It has retained the old-world charm, much like the Adelaide Oval, my favourite venue,” said Link.

Muhammad Seedat, South Africa supporter

Seedat hails from Durban and has been associated with cricket for a long time.

He is a former CEO of the Dolphins, the team from the KwaZulu Natal province in the domestic leagues.

Seedat is part of a panel that appoints directors to Cricket South Africa.

He decided to visit India after South Africa qualified for the knockout stage. He got tickets from the South African board. He was delighted that the first match he watched in India was at Eden.

“Eden and South Africa have a great history. We played our first match here after the Apartheid ban (was lifted). I would not have forgiven myself If I missed this match,” said Seedat.

He would watch the final at Ahmedabad as well, said Seedat.

The Proteas have historically been accused of failing to handle pressure in big matches, especially in the World Cup.

“Bat first, put up a big total and take some early wickets,” was his recipe for the semi-final.

Bat first they did but...

“I am proud of the fight they put up,” Seedat said after the match.

Mehul Kothari,
India supporter

Kothari, who lives in New York, arrived in India to watch the knockout games.

He watched the first semi-final between India and New Zealand in Mumbai.

After Kolkata, his next stop would be Ahmedabad.

“The performance that the Men in Blue came up with at Wankhede is superlative. But it is always good to have a measure of your opponent. That is why I am here,” said Kothari.

For Kothari, the standout Indian performer in this cup has been “Mohammed Shami, without an iota of doubt”.

He has been to the Lord’s and MCG. But it was his first time at Eden. “The atmosphere is electric,” he said.

Last updated on 17.11.23, 06:35 AM
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