I did not go to Eden Gardens, Kolkata to watch the 3rd One Day International between India and South Africa. I am not much of a cricket buff, but I do enjoy the spirit with which we get together when a cricket match is going on. I love the fact that offices are empty on the day of a match in Kolkata, that streets are deserted and all roads lead to Eden Gardens. And when I heard that our Project Leader had managed to get hold of tickets to watch the match live, I felt a twang of jealousy.
Not after I saw the news and read the papers the following day.
It had nothing to do with the fact that India lost so badly. We are used to winning occasionally and losing nearly all the time. 0urs is a nation where cricket is the life and soul and a means of escapism from drudgery of existence. We cheer gustily for our team and also for the opponent. Eden Gardens has always been a much-revered ground and the huge turnout is always a big morale booster for the Indian team.
But on Friday, the 25th of November, things turned out to be quite different. The crowds cheered when India lost a wicket and when South Africa hit a boundary. Rahul Dravid was jeered off the field and the crowds reveled in South Africa's victory. Eden Gardens could have been in South Africa.
All this because Sourav Ganguly was not a part of the team. Since when have we become so parochial that we protest with such vulgarity because our local boy is not a part of the team? I am one of those who believe that if Sachin Tendulkar can continue to be in the team despite so many single digit scores in recent times, then Sourav Ganguly - the dynamic captain, talented batsman and bowler who always gets a wicket or two ought to be in the team.
But what pained me was that the Bengali shed his "Bhadralok" image to reveal the beast within. The jeers could have been replaced by silence. There was no need to grab the attention of the world with such a gross act of rowdiness. If our actions have had any repercussions, it has been a challenge thrown by the Selectors in the form of a one-time chance to Dada to redeem himself against the Sri Lankans in the Test Match series. And if Ganguly fails in this do-or-die situation then his career is as good as finished. Isn't it too much pressure for a person to cope with?
When the Metro was unveiled in Delhi in 2000 and the unruly crowds marred the inauguration, noted columnist Jug Suraiyah was all in praise for the enthusiastic crowds in Kolkata who had behaved with so much restraint when the Metro was started here. This is the same crowd that lost all sanity on Friday.
Sourav Ganguly remains the lone sporting icon from the state to have gained international recognition in recent times. To us, he has come to represent Bengali pride. Dropping him from the team was like a personal insult to each one of us. Maybe, its time we realized that sports are a source of healthy entertainment and stop taking it so personally. Stop also to think of the man who has become the centre of so much debate and discussion. Maybe, we should leave him alone and leave him in peace. It would go a longer way in helping him regain form than cheering for his opponents to show solidarity for him.