Kolkata Mounted Police try to control Kolkata Knight Riders fans at the Eden Gardens during their IPL 7 victory celebrations. (Subhankar Chakraborty/HT Photo)
Superstars are not known to be punctual. But this was one date Shah Rukh Khan couldn’t have missed for the world. And even though he apologised profusely for showing up almost three hours late and tried to salvage the act by going on a second victory lap of Eden Gardens with Kolkata Knight Riders, the occasion never really lived up to the hysteria of 2012.
Much of it had to do with the off-field incidents. As if the police’s brusque behavior with spectators wasn’t bad enough, a sudden decision to open the gates almost led to a stampede at the entry points of Eden Gardens. By the time Shah Rukh had entered Eden, half the players were on the verge of leaving. The enthusiasm too had dipped.
No road show
In hindsight, both KKR and the Bengal government, who planned the felicitation, perhaps missed a trick by not repeating their 2012 plan of going on an open-bus parade through the city that culminated at Eden. It was an idea Kolkata had embraced with open arms.
Keeping the celebrations strictly within the stadium on Tuesday deprived a lot of people a chance to see the champions. Free passes were distributed from local police stations this time though, an improvement from 2012 when free entry made crowd management a nightmare.
Still the supply couldn't keep up with the demand resulting into a situation where passes were sold as high as Rs. 600 outside the stadium. Even then many complained of being denied entry despite having a valid pass.
That lessons had not been learnt from 2012, which drew a bigger crowd, too was evident in the complete breakdown of communications between the police and spectators. At several places, police resorted to lathicharge as unofficial sources put the number of injured at seven.
Bland at times
Inside, Eden, brimming with 50,000 people, simmered in the heat for almost three hours. A motley but handsome crowd from the local film industry tried to keep up the spirits, backed by some foot-tapping numbers belted out by Usha Uthup, whose energy would have made Khan proud.
By then the KKR team had been waiting at the dressing room for over an hour as reports came in of Khan's delayed flight. Only when Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee intervened did the event finally start rolling at around 3.30pm, two-and-a-half hours behind schedule. The felicitation was chaotic and quite bland at times.
But KKR coming out with the IPL trophy was all that a patient Eden Gardens needed to wake up to the occasion. Drowned in a sea of confetti, an open motorcade took the team on a slow trip around the stadium as the players lapped up the adulation. It was the sole high point of an otherwise disappointing matinee show that Khan almost missed.