KKR and ‘Mad Hatter’: An Eden Gardens diary

KKR fans cheering for the team

And there they went: “KKR, KKR”… A grey-haired man with a large nose, who somewhat resembled the Mad Hatter, didn’t look impressed. “KKHaar, KKHaar (you will lose, KKR),” he muttered under his breath. Make no mistake, the man was a true-blue Bengali, but somehow not impressed with the home team. “Same old story,” he explained, upon a polite inquiry. “Every year, they bring disappointment.”

Kolkata Knight Riders were playing their IPL 2024 opener against Sunrisers Hyderabad and Eden Gardens was steadily filling up. The toss was still five minutes away, the stadium DJ was belting out a Bollywood number and a group of youngsters were going full throttle with their advice to KKR captain Shreyas Iyer: “Bowling, bowling.”

Much to their chagrin, Sunrisers captain Pat Cummins won the toss and asked the hosts to bat first. Iyer, as he spoke at the toss, was greeted by a roar. The KKR captain felt “fantastic”. It was windy at Eden. The KKR flags fluttered. “Korbo, lorbo, jitbo re” was in the air. A new season and new hope. Gautam Gambhir’s ‘homecoming’ has created some buzz.

The Eden pitch looked a beauty. Sujan Mukherjee, the chief curator here, is his own man and over 10 years, the KKR management has failed to develop a proper rapport with him. No wonder that the home team doesn’t get much home advantage in its lair.

KKR threw up a surprise by sending Sunil Narine to open the innings with Phil Salt. The latter would soon salt-and-pepper Marco Jansen for three sixes in an over before Narine ran himself out, carelessly going for an evening stroll. Some fans were angry, a few others had already started chanting, “Russell, Russell.”

Suddenly, it was 33-3, Cummins was giving a field-setting masterclass and Eden had gone a little quiet. The DJ was trying his level best to lift the spirits, but the Kolkata crowd is knowledgeable. “Ki baje running koreche re (running between wickets has been awful),” said a fan. His mates agreed. Nitish Rana’s dismissal further downed the mood and even Shah Rukh Khan’s arrival failed to lift it properly.

Shah Rukh Khan after the match (Image: Debasis Sen)


Ramandeep Singh’s cameo was what the doctor ordered, but the fans were at their peak again when Rinku Singh came out to bat. Until last year, Rinku was an also-ran, before his heroics against Gujarat Titans. A year down the line, he is a star, almost a certainty for the T20 World Cup. Salt reached his fifty, a fine innings. The crowds still shouted, “Rinku, Rinku.” And then, the big man came.

Mayank Markande was in the firing line. Three sixes in an over ensued before a close call for a catch went in Russell’s favour. As the big screen showed ‘not out’, the volume was amplified at Eden.

It started raining sixes. Fifty came in 20 balls that had six sixes. Not for nothing is Russell so highly valued by his franchise. There’s a reason why he is a darling of the Eden crowd.

Sunrisers had the opportunity to grab the game by the lapels. They bottled it, and when Mitchell Starc, KKR’s Rs 24.75-crore buy, took the new ball, the supporters were relaxed. A target of 209 was thought to be out of Sunrisers’ reach, but Starc was profligate upfront and Mayank Agarwal was very good at putting away the hittable deliveries. Silence started to descend at Eden. When Harshit Rana accounted for Agarwal, the stadium found its voice again.

Emotions were topsy-turvy throughout Sunrisers’ run chase, until the last over. Cheers and groans lived cheek by jowl. Heinrich Klaasen almost stole Russell’s thunder. In the end, Eden heaved a collective shy of relief. The ‘Mad Hatter’ didn’t mind either.


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