Power of hype
16th of November 2017. The second Test between India and Sri Lanka commenced in Eden Gardens Kolkata. After returning from office in evening; suddenly a thought crossed in mind, next day being holiday -- why don't head to Eden in the morning to witness the Test in physical terms!
Actually my love for cricket got initiated on the age of 11 when my father was hearing running commentary in transistor of a Test being played at Eden Gardens versus England. Ajoy Basu and Kamal Bhattacharya were legends in Bengali commentary world whose cricketing expression used to resemble lucid poetry. With each passing year, I got more and more attached to the noble game specially Test cricket. But witnessing live international matches in stadiums remained a distant dream for me growing up in a Bihar coal town.
Much later we shifted to Kolkata; but with passage of time, my obsession with cricket lessened to a great extent. In the meantime my son started growing up and desired to enjoy a cricket match in stadium. ODI and IPL matches in Eden remain chock-a-block with rowdy elements dominating the show. Moreover tickets are exorbitantly priced and with matches ending near midnight, we are bound to face transport problems.
In contrast Test is a much better option in all fronts. Stadium does not brim to the full, ticket prices are reasonable with the match ending much before dusk.
So the very next morning, myself and son headed for Eden. Tickets were being sold from the counters of the iconic Mohameddan Sporting Ground. While I expected a long queue, got pleasantly surprised to see that hardly 2 persons were in the line! Getting hold of the tickets, stepped in the majestic stadium for the very first time! Even our alloted seats were just above the ground level near to the fence providing a full clear view of the whole playing arena. Almost all the stands were sparsely populated with all of them being real connoisseurs of Test cricket. However I didn't have any reason to complaint as we could seat leisurely and enjoy the game with hardly any human obstacle in front! What a nice experience in my debut at Eden as well as any live Test match with the soothing sunrays of approaching winter gracing the environment!
So we promised ourselves that from now on, we would watch all forthcoming Eden Tests. Hence the news of Bangladesh coming to Eden to play second Test of the series landed us in heavenly joy!
But how could we know that destiny is playing a different game and smiling at our "foolishness"!
Hardly a month earlier than the Eden test, Sourav Ganguly emerged as the BCCI President from nowhere! And one of his first decisions was to launch India's first day-night Test on his home turf with sole aim to bring in crowd! And indeed what a masterstroke played by Ganguly!
Incame the media with it's zealous hype! Since 3 weeks prior to the Test, "Pink" became the only issue! Sourav-led Cricket Association of Bengal is announcing one development after another and media is projecting it in highest decibel possible! Bangladesh and Indian PM will attend it along with galaxy of stars from cricketing to film world! Felicitations to talk shows to songs all on the menu! Pink flowers to be showered from above by helicopters! Special pink tickets would be issued and what not! As if heaven would simply come down at Eden with those not attending it would miss the opportunity to witness unfolding of "history"! No missing this life time opportunity!
In the mean time online tickets got launched. Yet the foolish in me continued to nap! Why so hurry!
We will just go to the ground on our selected match day, buy tickets from counter and enjoy the Test! But how could I envisage that within few days, all tickets would get sold online, thereby allowing no provision for counter sales!
In the last Eden Test which we attended, the opposition was Sri Lanka, much superior to lowly Bangladesh team. While Lanka had stars like Angelo Mathews, Rangana Herath, Dinesh Chandimal in its fold; India had a galaxy of Virat Kohli-Sikhar Dhawan-Cheteshwar Pujara-Ravindra Jadeja-Ravichandran Ashwin-Bhuvneshwar Kumar to mention a few along with local boy Wriddhiman Saha! Yet the crowd was sparse despite the Test very much alive in the second day and India yet to complete their innings! In contrast Bangladesh is a non-entity, that too rendered toothless with the absence of Shakib al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal. The Test record of Bangladesh is so dismal that perhaps the match would not survive full 3 days! Yet all tickets got sold online at least two weeks prior to the Test!
How could this miracle happen! Obviously a relentless hype hype and hype! Though I feel very sad that I could not succeed in enabling my very expectant son to have another glimpse of an Eden Test for which he was eagerly waiting since months, but it also enlightened me about the immense power of zealous hype and advertisement in today's "modern" era! A huge population which shunned quality Test cricket to immerse in T20 and IPL circus have been turned into connoisseurs of the highest form of the game overnight!
The writer is based in Kolkata