For the first time since he learnt to hold a cricket bat,Sourav Ganguly will use the visiting teams dressing room at the Eden Gardens on Saturday. For the entire week leading up to the Pune Warriors-Kolkata Knight Riders match,Kolkata has been in the grip of feverish excitement,readying for its favourite sons homecoming.
There was a mad rush when the ticket counters opened on Tuesday,and police had to carry out a lathicharge. An hour later,all tickets were sold out including those costing Rs 9,000. For the first time since it was rebuilt,Eden has seen every one of its 65,000 seats taken beforehand.
For those to whom it could not sell tickets,the Cricket Association of Bengal had planned to put up 12 giant TV screens outside the stadium. But the Kolkata Police played spoiler,arguing that given the overwhelming buildup to this game,large gatherings around the screens would be difficult to control.
The commissioner and joint commissioner were not willing to take any chances on security, CAB treasurer Bablu Ganguly said. Usually,the police deploy 4,500 men in uniform for IPL games. For Saturday,they have promised us 6,000.
Ever since KKR showed Sourav the door last year,the franchise has not had the crazed support of the first three editions of the league. Ganguly was overlooked for last seasons auction,and managed only a late,backdoor entry into the Pune side. Things have changed drastically in a years time however,and Ganguly is back to being an IPL captain. But because his team is not Kolkata,many in the franchise are wondering just whom the city will back come Saturday.
To ensure KKR are cheered strongly in their home game,owner Shah Rukh Khan met Bengals Youth Affairs Minister Aroop Biswas and presented him with a team jersey. Biswas is MLA from Tollygunge,and is known to be close to the Bengali film industry. SRK has reportedly sought Tollywoods support for KKR and a contingent of Bengali filmstars will play a celebrity match after the showdown,and attend a specially-organised extended night party afterward.
So how is the man at the centre of it all reacting? Any match at Eden Gardens is my home match, a wry Ganguly said. His elder brother Snehashis said the former India captain had scores to settle with KKR.
He has a lot to prove, Snehashis told The Indian Express. Dont forget,he was left out by KKR in 2010,despite scoring nearly 500 runs that season. No one bid for him at the auction.
Asked about KKR skipper Gautam Gambhirs assertion that fans would support Kolkatas team,Snehashis shot back: Gambhir doesnt have any idea about Souravs popularity in this part of the world. He has a long way to go to match Sourav as a cricketer.
The stage is set for an epic IPL battle. Its Dada versus SRK,Bollywood versus Tollywood,Kolkata versus its favourite son. Some,however,would say that the last two are on the same side.