First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
I was in Kolkata for a while so I thought it would be a good idea to watch the qualifier since I have not seen many IPL knockout games from the stadium. The only other one I attended was in 2010 when Mumbai Indians beat Royal Challengers Bangalore at the DY Patil Stadium.
I thought Mumbai Indians would massacre Rajasthan Royals since Royals' batsmen have looked in poor form of late and the team did not have a single spinner on a track conducive to spin, whereas Mumbai had two good spinners. I was prepared for a one-sided game.
I'll be backing Mumbai in the final because I spend most of my time in the city. I believe the loser of the first qualifier will eventually win the tournament, and since I have proclaimed that to many people I want my theory to work out.
Both Harbhajan Singh and Dwayne Smith played their roles. Harbhajan stifled the Royals batting by taking wickets at regular intervals, a couple of catches and hitting the winning runs in a tense chase. He also gets additional points for his dancing and wild celebrations. Smith anchored the chase smartly and upped the ante when required.
One thing I'd have changed about the match
It would have been great if the match had ended in a tie. I have never watched a Super Over live.
Face-off I relished
The mood of the evening was set in the third over when Rahul Dravid and Mitchell Johnson got in each other's faces. Later, James Faulkner had a collision with Smith, but the match-up that got the stadium quietly tense was when Rohit Sharma walked in to bat with Mumbai needing 41 from 35 balls. Rohit was beaten by his first ball and the bowler, Kevon Cooper, had a few words to say. Rohit defended the next three balls as well and Cooper glared at him every time. It was turning out to be a wicket-maiden, but Rohit managed to steal a single off the last ball. Throughout the incident, Rohit stayed calm and collected, unlike some of his Indian team-mates.
Kieon Pollard was easily the most popular Mumbai player on the field and got huge cheers whenever he came near the boundary. Brad Hodge was near the boundary as well and was teased a bit when he dropped a catch off Rayudu.
When it seemed certain that Mumbai were going to win, needing six off five balls, Shane Watson knocked off Ambati Rayudu's stumps and silenced nearly all of Eden, which was rooting for Mumbai throughout. In came Rishi Dhawan, who has hardly batted in the tournament, and scooped Watson over short fine leg for four. The audacity and confidence that Dhawan showed in the execution of the shot was astounding given the fact that it could have easily been a Misbah-type misadventure.
Shot of the day
A couple of shots in the 20th over of Royals innings stood out. Dishant Yagnik flicked one from behind the stumps to get a boundary, and a few wides later, Hodge backed away to a Malinga yorker and steered the ball through backward point for four. Hodge's shot was stunning since the ball had been a near-perfect yorker.
Eden Gardens looked about 60-70% full. The crowd was bored at the beginning, because of the delayed start, then gradually came to its feet with the Royals innings taking off smoothly. In the last over of the match, most fans were standing on their toes.
Dravid's innings was cherished by many who realised that this is probably the last time Dravid will be seen in a cricket ground. He got a standing ovation after he got out and there was a tinge of sadness after the game as Royals bowed out.
The crowd was pleasantly surprised to see Sachin Tendulkar on the big screen after the game. Since it was already late, spectators were in a hurry to leave, but on seeing Tendulkar, many cheered wildly. In terms of support, Eden had virtually turned into Wankhede last night so it was a fitting end.
The toilets ranked between strictly okay and filthy, there was plenty of drinking water, and getting in and out of the stadium was quite easy thanks to the strict vigilance by the police.
The usual IPL songs and Hindi film songs were played. There were some fireworks at the beginning of both innings through which the umpires and players emerged on to the field.
During the 11th over of the Royals innings, a Bengali song was played over the PA. The cheerleaders seemed very confused and took some time to catch the beat of the song, much to the crowd's amusement.
Twenty20 v ODIs
Both of them have their own charm. I still probably prefer ODIs since there is more time to soak in the stadium atmosphere. In a Twenty20 game, everything happens too quickly.
TV v stadium
There is no comparison between the two. Cricket is best watched from the ground. Television can never create the overall atmosphere that a ground creates.
Marks out of 10 8. Though the stadium was not full, there was plenty of noise to keep us going. Lasith Malinga's last over was a spectacle with the variety of wides he bowled. There was some great cricket and some poor cricket, but the tense finish made the whole experience memorable.
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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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