Ranji Trophy: Bengal gives Eden Gardens a win to cherish

Bengal made history by reaching its first Ranji Trophy final since 2006-07 season, sparking fervent celebrations at the Eden Gardens.

Bengal

Bengal's team photo after reaching the Ranji Trophy final.   -  Ayan Acharya

Around five minutes past 11 on a bright, slightly sticky Tuesday in Kolkata, Akash Deep runs in and bowls a well disguised slower delivery, Mithun slogs and misses, off stump is out of the ground.

A wicket off a slower ball is an anticlimactic end for a match dominated by express pace but Eden doesn't care. An eager excitement descends over the three stands open to the crowd — filling up even as the Bengal players fall over each other in jubilation — who have begun celebrating.

Some moments are faithfully recorded on mobile cameras; others, the last wicket of Mithun, for example, are scrutinised for, perhaps, five minutes. As the Bengal players take a victory lap, the fans yell at decibel levels audible to everyone on the ground.

The Karnataka cricketers are spotted loitering in front of the dressing room. The applause from the stands slows down and faces turn to the Karnataka dressing room with wonder and fervent anticipation. Anticipation of catching even a tiny glimpse of "Rahul (KL) bhaiya".

Read: Ishan Porel: the pacer Eden Gardens loved back

They adore their Rahul here, at Eden: all those years ago in 2001, on a hot and humid day, they fell in love with another Rahul — Dravid — who along with V.V.S. Laxman denied Australia in a Test match for the ages. But this wasn't Rahul's day.

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Bengal players take a victory lap of the Eden Gardens.   -  Ayan Acharya

Meanwhile, a group of photographers from the vernacular press are trying to bring a hush over the gaggle of fans as they pass by. "Bengal jitee che, Bengal jitee che, ki Rahul, Rahul korcho!" they can be overheard saying.

The Eden Gardens has drama. It has emotions and a partisan crowd filling up the stadium with shouts and cheers. The chats are interspersed with tea and cigarettes. Spectators are sitting on empty, dust-covered bucket seats. Some leave during the lunch, some walk in during tea breaks.

At the spiritual home of cricket in India, the fans savour the slow accumulation of events and its imposition on an imminent result. They enjoy the boundaries, appreciate a good spell, and deliberate over a dismissal. The symbiosis between the crowd and Bengal cricketers is a spectacle in its own right.

A day earlier, the applause that followed Rahul's wicket was celebratory, as if the match was won. And the silence that greeted Devdutt Padikkal's boundary, a loud announcement of whose side the crowd was on.

Read: Fiery Mukesh seals Bengal's first final in 13 years

This is where four years ago, Carlos Braithwaite's four sixes against Ben Stokes drowned England in despair, making the West Indies the only side to win the T20 World Cup twice.

This is where in 2014, Rohit Sharma laid into a hapless Sri Lankan attack, pounding a record-breaking 264 from 173 balls. His 33 fours and nine sixes, left no part of the ground unexploited. It's a ground that's seen it all: Nail-biters, rollercoasters, and sweet comebacks.

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Ishan Porel meets the fans after leading Bengal to a thumping semifinal win over Karnataka.   -  Ayan Acharya

Closer to stumps on day three, a security guard stationed outside the press box gave his two cents. "We should've scored more. Karnataka has three India internationals, dada," he said putting out a cigarette butt. "Porel has to bowl well. If we can pick up a couple of wickets, then we are in with a chance," the guard added.

Porel bowled one short of a good length, Padikkal stayed in his crease and had a poke at it, the ball just missing the outside edge. Porel walked up to the batsman and let him know who was calling the shots.

The crowd got into the act. The blaring trumpets returned. The cheers turned into screams. The guard next to me, smoking his third cigarette by now, sipped a cup of tea and said, "Jodi jite jaaina, pagol hoye jaabey lokey ra (If Bengal wins this, people will go crazy)."

He wasn't wrong. On Tuesday, the Bengal cricket team gave Eden Gardens a win it can look back in time with sepia-tinted sentimentality.

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