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Political powerplay drains colour purple

Wednesday, May 30, 2022
Nilankur Das


Kolkata: The film Invictus depicts how South Africa president Nelson Mandela's involvement with the Springboks helped them win the 1995 rugby World Cup at home and encourage racial integration. Cut to cricket and the City of Joy. Kolkata Knight Riders won their maiden Indian Premier League (IPL) title on Sunday.

Surprisingly, it was the state government which decided to felicitate the team at the Eden Gardens on Tuesday afternoon. The Cricket Association of Bengal was at best a willing ally.

Even without a single party flag, chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her posse of ministers took charge of one of cricket's most hallowed venues. Whatever attention was left to soak in was taken away by film stars. The players too were spectators. It seemed as if a political rally was taking place, only the speeches were shorter and the music louder.

Celebration time

Fans started pouring in from 8.30am. An hour later, there were close to 40,000 people in the stands. This was one side of the story reflecting the spontaneity with which Kolkata celebrated in the early hours of Monday, long after Manoj Tiwary had hit the winning runs.

The players and the IPL trophy were only scheduled to reach the Eden around noon, leading a road rally from Hazra, around 8km from the stadium. Perhaps the only reason why the procession started from there was its proximity to the chief minister's residence.

A huge roar drowned the music when the players entered the Eden. Co-owners Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla spontaneously broke into a jig. And in the scrum by the photographers for a good angle, the chief minister took charge, taking the microphone from the emcee.

Reflected glory

There were no dearth of KKR flags around - even the chief minister was wearing a saree with a purple border. But even then the players, who gave the city a rare sporting victory to celebrate, were lost in a maze of people trying to make hay in cricket's afterglow.

Where were the Bislas and the Shakibs, even Gambhir for that matter? Not for once was the stage left to just the players and support staff.

The chief minister instructed when people should dance to a particular song. She ordered her ministers around and shouted at camerapersons, all the while holding the microphone.

KKR now belongs to Bengal, she exhorted. Winds of change (poriborton in Bangla) are blowing across the Eden and the state, suggested another. It is debatable whether sport can really be the harbinger of change but those who controlled the Eden show seemed convinced.

A mild stampede took place outside where people, who could not get in because the stands were packed, broke a barricade to catch a glimpse of the ‘Don’. Did someone say cricket?

HT Content & Syndication Services