When it comes to having a sense of occasion, people in Kolkata are always at the forefront. They know how to create a buzz and make a grand event successful, especially if the concept is brand new. And considering this city's immense affection towards sports, perhaps very few other than the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) have understood and used that passion in better way to turn cricketing events into celebrations.
Currently we are in the middle of one such festivity in Kolkata surrounding India's first-ever day-night Test, which will be played with a pink ball and that has inspired many to name this particular match as the pink Test.
Ever since Sourav Ganguly, the new BCCI president convinced Virat Kohli's men and the Bangladesh Cricket Board for this historic fixture at the Eden Gardens, the CAB has left no stone unturned to make the Test match a special occasion not only for the cricket fans, but for the entire city.
The entire ground, both inside and out along with city's famous attractions and landmarks like Shaheed Minar, municipal corporation parks, the maidan tents as well as the ferries which take passengers across the Hooghly river, have been dressed up in a shower of pink lights. Also, a dozen billboards and six LED boards have been installed at various important areas of the city to mark the arrival of this landmark moment in Indian cricket.
" CABCricket (@CabCricket) November 20, 2019
" CABCricket (@CabCricket) November 19, 2019
While going past the strand road, you will notice a ball-shaped pink blimp hovering over Eden Gardens. And if you miss that, the 3D mapping on the famous TATA Steel Building is bound to raise your curiosity regarding this much-anticipated Test match.
A massive pink blimp has been on display at Eden Gardens. PTI
Furthermore, for the last few days specially decorated buses are roaming around Kolkata to publicise the mega event. There even are two cuddly mascots named Pinku and Tinku in order to reach out to the younger fans.
Well, after all these arrangements and decorations, when you finally arrive at the Eden Gardens to get a feel of what exactly is happening, you will immediately notice evocative description of the gentlemen's game on the walls of the venue. However, the other thing you will see is inquisitive faces looking towards the counters for match tickets.
But the notice boards outside those counters are already in place, which say, "No offline ticket sale. No cash sale."
Following all the publicity and hype, there has been a huge demand for tickets of this India-Bangladesh Test match. The first three days have already been sold out, which may be great news for the health of Test cricket in the subcontinent and for the legacy of Eden Gardens but for many fans, including those who have travelled a long way to be a part of the history, are experiencing a feeling of being left out from joining the bandwagon.
Dipankar Das who belongs from Siliguri, the hometown of Wriddhiman Saha, spent 14 hours in a packed general compartment of an overnight train to reach Sealdah (One of the terminal railway stations of Kolkata). Skipping his breakfast, from the station he straightway came to Eden Gardens to stand in the queue for match tickets, which was supposed to be sold directly from the counter.
However, Dipankar had no luck as both offline or online ticket was unavailable for Day 1, 2 and 3. The only option left is to purchase the tickets from the black market.
"It was my dream to watch a day-night Test. But I don't have money to buy an INR 50 ticket at price of 750 from the broker," Dipankar laments. "I am just a toto [e-rickshaw] driver and came all the way to Kolkata only for my passion for the game. Now it seems that I have to return empty handed."
On Wednesday (November 20), outside the main entrance of Eden Gardens, many such desperate fans like Dipankar could be spotted approaching random strangers with a plea for just one ticket.
" Sourav Ganguly (@SGanguly99) November 20, 2019
Nevertheless, there are some lucky fans as well who have managed to get hold of a match ticket, which certainly is the most proud possession for anyone in the Brigade Parade Ground (the place adjacent to Eden Gardens) until the Test gets over.
Saif Hasan, a 25-year-old literature student from Dhaka University is one of those. He travelled to Kolkata all the way from Bangladesh's capital along with his four other friends especially for this match. On Wednesday, they were seen cheering for Mominul Haque's team when the Tigers were getting down from the bus for their scheduled practice session.
"We Bangladeshis have an emotional connection with Kolkata and this is first time we are playing a Test match here. I am sure we will compete in this match. With the pink ball, Mustafizur will make life difficult for the Indians. So, don't count us out," Saif said.
Much like Saif's group, at least 5000 travelling Bangladeshi fans are expected to attend this Test match. Already in the New Market area (the favourite place for Bangladeshis in Kolkata) all the hotels are jam-packed. And if you walk past that part of the city during evening, you can definitely get a feel of the buzz this upcoming contest has created.
On the Day 1 of the Test match, army paratroopers will fly into the Eden Gardens to hand over a pink ball to each of the captains just before the toss in front of important dignitaries from both the countries, which will include the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina. There will be felicitations of former cricketers and current athletes as well as cultural programmes to entertain the crowd.
Amongst all these sideshows, the focus, however, would continue to be on the two teams, especially on the underdog visitors to raise their game from what we have seen in Indore to match the significance of the occasion.