It doesn’t take long for the feel of the city to grip you when you arrive in Kolkata around this time of the year. The people are getting ready for Durga Pujo, the biggest carnival in the region, and you don’t need to look hard to find traces of it during the drive into the city from the airport.
On Tuesday (September 19), Mahalaya hymns blared out of the speakers as one passed long lines of hoardings with pretty ladies in their traditional red and white sarees welcoming one and all with the greetings of the season, interspersed by messages from Mamata Banerjee, the state’s chief minister, and of course, Sourav Ganguly.
Ganguly’s face is everywhere – on reality show posters, advertisements for real estate and construction material, on the back of auto rickshaws and buses … you name it. But if you are looking for any other cricket connect in the midst of these festivities, you could be left a little disappointed.
There is a One-Day International between India and Australia scheduled in the city in two days’ time, and you realise it only when you make the turn at Strand Road.
There was a sizeable queue outside the box-office counters next to Eden Gardens, despite rain lashing the area for a good part of Tuesday afternoon. The organisers admitted that tickets hadn’t sold out, but the touts roaming the Mohammedan Sporting ground area off Eden will convince you that there were no tickets available, and s/he was your best chance of getting in.
— Himanish B (@TheHimanish) September 19, 2017
The buzz might not be as big as it is for the Indian Premier League matches, but it’s still there.
The bamboo sticks that didn’t make it to the neighbourhood pandals have been put to good use around the stadium to segregate the crowd based on stand entrances. Inside, last-minute touch-ups are on in the press box to make sure there are no glitches on match day. It all makes for an exciting build up to an important match, with India coming into the contest with a 1-0 lead over their opponents.
The only thing that’s making everyone nervous is the weather forecast.
A leading Bengali daily ran the headline ‘Pitch ready, rain the fear’ on Tuesday, summing up the sense of apprehension. According to Google, there is a chance of heavy thunderstorms between 11am and 4pm on Thursday, with the match scheduled to start at 1.30pm.
The incessant rain has meant that the ground has been kept under covers since Monday morning, forcing the Australians to practice indoors, and the Indians to cancel their training session altogether.
If it’s a short burst like the one on Tuesday afternoon, it shouldn’t be too big a crisis, given the Cricket Association of Bengal’s improved drainage system, imported state-of-the-art cover arrangement, and reinforced Super Sopper.
With rain hurting Australia in the first ODI, when they ran out of plans to counter India’s attack in a shortened 21-over chase and eventually went down by 25 runs (DLS method), they would be desperate to get things back on track.
A full game is what both sides would be hoping for, and going by curator Ashish Bhowmick, a “sporting wicket” has been prepared to provide equal help to both batsmen and bowlers. He pointed out that the track could get slower if the rain continues and, not to forget, the strip hasn’t been exposed for over 24 hours at the time of writing this.
Only time can tell how much of an impact the weather will have on proceedings come match day, but one thing is for sure – much of the praying will begin early around here this Durga Pujo, with the weather gods in focus.