A big screen and wisecracks as local fans watch KKR pull of an Eden heist

KKR and Xrong Place
KKR and Xrong Place (PC: Debasis Sen & Atreyo Mukhopadhyay)

Marte dao. Na marle out hobe na (Let them hit. They won’t get out unless they go for it),” said one. “Wicket newar dorkar nei. Run atkale nijerai out hoye jabe (No need to go for wickets. Just stop the runs. They’ll get out on their own),” quipped another.

Those were some of the wisecracks and strategic discussions overheard at Xrong Place (pronounced ‘wrong’), a pub-cum-restaurant in south Kolkata, during the Kolkata Knight Riders-SunRisers Hyderabad IPL 2024 match played on Saturday evening. It’s one of the handful of pubs in the city which shows live sports on a big screen round the year, be it IPL or EPL.

It was not exactly a packed house, but the headcount increased as the evening veered towards night. The music appeared to be getting louder (it actually didn’t) with each passing over of the SRH chase and people huddled closer to the screen as the end of the match neared. There were “I told you so” looks after Mitchell Starc went for 26 in the 19th over to leave SRH requiring 13 off the 20th.

The collective roar of the gathering of about 15 for a moment drowned the blaring music after Harshit Rana bowled that impeccable final over. There were expressions of disbelief, high-fives, shaking of hands and of course one last drink for the night to celebrate KKR’s nerve-racking win.

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Xrong Place, a pub-cum-restaurant in south Kolkata
Xrong Place, a pub-cum-restaurant in south Kolkata (PC: Atreyo Mukhopadhyay)

Xrong Place has been a spot for such gatherings for over 15 years now. In a city which doesn’t have a lot of dedicated ‘sports bars’, it’s an oasis of sorts. “We beam live sports, any sports, be it cricket, football or volleyball,” said a member of the staff. “That’s one of our attractions. We usually get good crowds in the weekends. During IPL, we expect the regular numbers to increase.”

Known for its passion for sports, especially football and cricket, Kolkata doesn’t have a lot of sports bars, which are quite popular in some other metros. In the City of Joy, the concept of group consumption of big sporting events is restricted mostly to the neighbourhood clubs, which sometimes put up big screens during marquee events like World Cups.

“It has not caught on yet, this idea of having a drink or two with friends and family while enjoying live sports in a pub. I have seen that in other cities,” said Soumik, who works in the banking sector. In his forties, Soumik is familiar with the locality and a regular at Xrong Place during games. “Not in massive numbers, but people do drop in, especially during big events,” he said.

A hushed yet loud ‘aah’ descended when Varun Chakravarthy grassed a chance during SRH’s chase. People were actually on the edge of their seats on the bar counter as the game approached the end. Dot balls were celebrated and the Heinrich Klaasen big hits drew muted applause. But the partisan spirit of the gathering reached a crescendo after Rana defended seven from five balls.

Xrong Place, a pub-cum-restaurant in south Kolkata
Xrong Place, a pub-cum-restaurant in south Kolkata (PC: Atreyo Mukhopadhyay)

From “KKR parbe na. Batting thik nei (KKR won’t make it. Their batting isn’t up to the mark)” to “Ke bollo? Bowling to thik ache (Don’t worry. The bowling is good enough)” — opinions varied. And will continue to do so over the next few weeks.

Will the numbers at Xrong Place increase? “In Kolkata, footfall depends on what time of the month it is,” said a staff member, who didn’t wish to be named. “Come after two weeks to see how many are here.”

“Their (KKR’s) batting remains a concern,” said Soumik. To see if the numbers rise or if Soumik’s apprehension comes true, one has to be there at Xrong Place.

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