World Cup hopes dashed, gloom descends on Kolkata

Published on Mar 23, 2003 09:52 PM IST

Rising pre-match expectations, gradual dismay, rain-induced hope and the final heartbreak ? this more or less sums up the mood of the city as India lost to the Aussies.

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PTI | ByPress Trust of India, Kolkata

Rising pre-match expectations, gradual dismay, rain-induced hope and the final heartbreak -- this more or less sums up the mood of the city as India collapsed meekly to the Aussie might in the World Cup final on Sunday.

For the metropolis, where cricket fever reached an unprecedented high with the fans painstakingly preparing for the 'D' Day and almost the entire population hooked to TV screens hoping for a repeat of the 1983 triumph, it was a stunning anti-climax, hard to digest.

The drums fell silent. Crackers did not burst. The much expected second 'holi' in six days never happenned.

The sports crazy Kolkatans watched with 'shock and awe' the devastating batting display of the Aussies.

"The way they batted, no team in the world could have bettered them. They played like true champions," said Suman Mitra, a resident of Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly's locality at Behala.

Groups of people gathered in street corners, soon after the match, discussing in hushed tones team India's debacle, criticising Ganguly's decision to field first and the much hyped pace troika's inability to deliver the goods when it mattered most.

If Aussie captain Ricky Ponting's sledge hammer blows with the willow acted as the first dampener to the people's aspirations, batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar's first over fall to the tricks of Glenn McGrath led to collective sighs of dismay from the fans watching the match on the 20 giant screens set up by the West Bengal government.

But as the heavens opened up in South Africa, hope returned to Kolkata.

"Maa Mangalchandi (Ganguly's household deity) will bail him out. If there is a replay tomorrow, India will certainly win," said Kumar Sen, sitting before the giant screen at Jadavpore.

However, the match resumed within 23 minutes, and once Virender Sehwag departed, the crowd started melting away and only the most die hard fans sat through.

Even those glued to their TV sets at home, started switching channels as Indian wickets tumbled at regular intervals.

Community dinners organised at various clubs of the city, where large number of people collected before television sets hoping to see local boy Ganguly lift the Cup, tasted bitter after the defeat.

"I was sure we will win. But then..." said a sad Palash Karmakar, of the Creek Row Sporting Club.

Earlier, all other activity came to a standstill as buses, taxis and autorickshaws kept off the roads, and the main thoroughfares, cinema halls and tourist destinations were deserted. Even patients visiting hospitals complained of unavaibility of doctors and para-medical staff.

The creme de la creme of the city gathered at several hotels, where the match was shown live on big screens, with mouth-watering culinary delicacies and drinks for company.

Groups of youngsters moved around the city on trucks and motorbikes flying the national flag and eulogising the Indian cricketers in the lead up to the match.

The Thalassemia and Aids Prevention Society took out a big procession in South Kolkata with large cut-outs of the players and a huge replica of the World Cup. They held an all-faith prayer meeting and also offered puja at the famous Kali Temple in Kalighat for the success of the Indian team minutes before the match began.

Not to be left behind, the Calcutta Tramways Company brought out a special tram, bedecked with garlands and the tri-colour, and about 100 cheering fans wearing the Indian team apparel on board.

The entire city seemed wrapped in the tri-colour and posters of the cricketing stars since last night, with mega models of the World Cup installed at street corners.

Musical bands made quick money as they were hired by various clubs to play joyous and patriotic tunes, but with the script not turning out as expected, the bagpipes and melodica fell silent.

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