First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
I had never watched an India-Pakistan game from the stands, having missed them every time Pakistan had visited India. So this time I planned in advance.
I was confident India would win and level the series since I regarded them a better ODI outfit.
This was a must-win game for India, so I was desperately rooting for them.
Nasir Jamshed steered the ship for Pakistan, scoring at a brisk rate with Mohammed Hafeez, and continued on even after Hafeez's dismissal. By the time Jamshed got out, he had scored half of Pakistan's runs, thus ensuring they got a respectable total on the board. He got a standing ovation from the crowd after reaching his century since this was his third consecutive century against India (including the one at the Asia Cup in 2012).
One thing I'd have changed
Eden Gardens was packed with more than 60,000 spectators hoping for a high-scoring thriller, but the game fizzled out the moment India lost their first wicket. I'd have liked to change the Indian collapse, because the last 40 overs of the game were the most boring display of cricket I've ever seen. India kept losing wickets at regular intervals and showed no intent to even go for the chase.
Face-off I relished
Making full use of the new two-bouncer rule, the Pakistani bowlers were intent on banging it in short one after the other, making the audience groan and say, "We didn't bowl bouncers at you". Ashok Dinda did try a couple of bouncers but they were called wides. Mohammed Irfan was particularly intimidating with his height and the kind of bounce he was extracting.
We expected a good contest between Irfan and Virat Kohli once the batsman was beaten and responded with a boundary off Irfan in the next ball. But Kohli disappointed everyone by getting out in the over after that.
Jamshed's wicket was the top moment of the game for me and the home crowd. Pakistan had raced to 150 for 2 in 27 overs and the only way they could be restricted was by triggering a collapse. That meant getting the wicket of Jamshed, who was refusing to budge. In the 42nd over, Jamshed skipped down the track to hit the ball but missed it. He was far out of the crease, giving Dhoni a chance to easily stump him. Dhoni fumbled but managed to drag the ball back to the stumps. The decision was referred to the third umpire and the crowd kept its fingers crossed. A cheer was first heard from somewhere near the corporate boxes, where spectators had access to television sets. Then we saw Kamran Akmal come down the pavilion. A roar went up when we finally saw the third umpirer's decision on the big screen. A few cheeky fans waved at Jamshed and yelled, "Jamshed ji, ta ta", which sounded something like the name of the legendary Indian industrialist.
Gambhir, fielding at deep square leg, was called out by the crowd, "Ei Gautam da". But the Kolkata Knight Riders' captain didn't turn, prompting disappointed fans to ask. "Will he be fined if he waves back?", "Why can't he even look at us?"
Kohli was asked how many phone numbers he managed to get, alluding to a cellphone ad in which he tries to get a girl's number. The ad was repeated on the giant screen all day long.
Shoaib Malik got called "jamaai babu" (son-in-law), since he is married to Indian tennis player Sania Mirza.
Shot of the day
Jamshed hit a couple of sixes off Dinda against the run of play. Dhoni's six off Junaid Khan was also memorable.
Eden was packed to the brim. The crowd was in a good mood during the second half of the Pakistani innings and responded with some well-orchestrated Mexican waves, which also received applause. The fans at Eden are usually armchair critics who chirp non-stop: "Why is Dinda bowling short?", "Why did the Indians miss so many half-chances?" "Why is Raina bowling and not Yuvi?", "That throw to the wicketkeeper should have been three inches to the left", "Why wasn't Ishant's quota completed in his third spell?", "Why was Yuvi given the ball?" (after he conceded two boundaries), and so on.
During the Indian innings, the eight runs conceded by Pakistan through overthrows were loudly applauded. India were constantly reminded that this wasn't a Test, and had they anyway been good at Tests, they wouldn't have lost to England. The IPL was also blamed for India's poor show. The Pakistani bowlers were also praised for their splendid bowling.
Many spectators had purchased tickets in the black market and were busy comparing the rates at which they got them.
Since the Cricket Association of Bengal completed its 25th anniversary of India-Pakistan ODIs last year, (the first India-Pakistan ODI was held in 1987), several veteran Indian and Pakistani cricketers were felicitated in the ground during the interval. As the first round of cricketers rode around the ground on vehicles, people asked, "Where is Dada?" When Ganguly was finally spotted bringing up the rear of the second round, standing alone and waving at the crowd, there was a huge round of applause. But minutes later, whispers began, "Where is Sachin?"
VVS Laxman also got a huge round of applause during the procession and chants.
Banner of the day
Amid the gloom and doom, one poster stood out: "GOD should not have forgotten the Garden of Eden". The crowd really missed Tendulkar.
Haircut of the day
The giant screen showed that Kohli had won an audience poll for the best haircut by a whopping 52%, beating Raina, Ravindra Jadeja and Ishant. At least an Indian won something.
Marks out of 10
Terrific atmosphere from a passionate and knowledgeable crowd. If only the quality of cricket was better and there was something to look forward to. Sixty overs of the match were enjoyable. The last 40 were painful. When India batted, the wickets fell as if it was a Twenty20, and Dhoni made it look like a Test by farming the strike till the end. Every dot ball was applauded sarcastically, every ball defended got a "well played", and the spectators laughed at the lack of intent shown by India, and overall, at their own misery.
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Saurav Dey is a creative consultant but prefers to spend most of his time watching cricket. He believes that cricket is best watched from the grounds and hopes to cover all the Test and ODI venues in the world someday and write a book about them. He also aspires to create his own "Bharat Army" and travel around the world.
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