Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
WI v BDESH (1)
ENG v NZ (1)
South Africa Women in England (1)
IND-W in SL (1)
County DIV1 (4)
County DIV2 (3)
IRE v IND (2)
IND in ENG (1)
It is closing in on 7pm at the Eden Gardens when the stadium DJ decides to break the monotony of contemporary Bollywood music and go back to the early 80s.
"Tumne kabhi kisi ko pyaar kiya? [Have you ever loved someone?]" a youthful Rishi Kapoor implores, in the voice of an ageing Kishore Kumar.
"Kiya! [I have!]" comes the reply, with sections of the Eden Gardens crowd joining the chorus of shrill voices recorded before a lot of them were born.
"Kabhi kisi ko dil diya? [Have you ever given someone your heart?]" "Diya! [I have!]"
There is little reason for the crowd to show so much enthusiasm. For one, they should be watching the climactic stages of a Twenty20 run chase. They are instead watching the groundstaff and three Super Soppers grimly attempt to turn a sodden outfield into a surface fit for a game of cricket.
Even that sodden outfield is a freshly vacuumed carpet compared to the turf some of them have trudged through to reach their seats.
Barricaded into a narrow pathway around the edge of Kolkata's sprawling Maidan, soaked to the skin, five or six to a row, shoulder to shoulder, they had squelched their way from ticket counter to stadium gates through sometimes ankle-deep slush.
All this so they wouldn't hinder the flow of traffic on the roads around the stadium.
Whenever a row in front had hesitated before sinking their feet into a particularly boggy patch, the rows behind had undergone an accordion-like contraction that had mashed faces into backs. This had also happened when someone had paused to buy a t-shirt or get their face painted. For the vendors outside the stadium, this was just another match day.
The swirl of commerce, in all its forms, goes on as always, outside and inside the gates. The music blares incessantly, without a single sombre or reflective note. But you are never far from a reminder that this isn't, perhaps, just another match day.
Ankit Keshri's face looks out from posters all around the stadium and at its gates. At the Club House gate, his posters stand in front of giant photo-murals of Indian cricket's legends. Here is Kapil Dev, lifting the World Cup. Here is Sourav Ganguly, Kolkata's greatest cricketer. Here are VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid, walking off the field after one of the greatest days in Indian cricket. Maybe a six-year-old Keshri had been at the stadium, watching them bat.
This is the first match at the Eden Gardens since Keshri's death. Kolkata Knight Riders have included him as the 16th member of their squad. Conversations around the stadium occasionally turn to Keshri, or to the earthquakes that have shaken the city - and ravaged Nepal - over the last two days.
Before the sun went down, it had been possible to see smoke rising over the rooftops beyond the eastern side of the ground. In the morning, a fire had broken out at a shopping complex in the New Market area. Now the skies have darkened and the buildings in the distance have faded out of view. All you can see clearly is the giant football on the roof of the New Secretariat Building, lit by the stadium's nearest floodlight tower, looking like a gibbous moon.
Mobile phones cause pinpricks of light to flash in the far stands. They remind you vaguely of the paper torches the crowds here used to hold up back in the 90s. You'll now need secret pockets to carry matchboxes or lighters into the stands. Back then the stadium could pack 90,000 spectators, some said 100,000. Now it holds 66,000. On a rainy day with little hope of cricket, it is close to full.
Each time the PA system brings the crowd an update - a male voice, polite, speaking first in English and then in Bengali - that hope dwindles further. An inspection at 5.35 if there is no rain. There is no rain. An inspection at 6.20 if there is no rain. There is no rain. 6.50. No rain. Through all this the covers come off, and a blue ground slowly turns green, with wet patches on its edges.
There is no more rain, but the wet patches simply won't dry. At 7.05 the announcer reveals there is little hope of play, considering the cut-off time is 7.30. He announces that spectators will get a full refund should there be no play. At 7.15 he confirms that there will be no play.
The exodus begins. Feet that had gone crusty with dried mud step in puddles once more. They step past posters of Ankit Keshri. They stop at stalls selling jhal muri. They go back home. They will return to the ticket counter in two days, get their refunds, and complete a strange cycle that posterity will simply record as 'match abandoned without a ball bowled'.