Shahid Afridi may be in trouble back home for his “getting more love in India” remark, but a half-filled but boisterous Eden Gardens on Wednesday seemed determined to prove the Pakistani skipper’s assertions were not ill-founded as they lustily cheered each and every move of the Green Brigade in their World Twenty20 Group 2 encounter against Bangladesh.
The maverick all-rounder, who was chided by his own people for his remarks, appeared to be the toast of the around 30,000 crowd right from the moment he walked out for the toss and much to their delight repaid the love with a blistering knock of 49 studded with eight hits to the boundary.
Though outnumbered, the 5,000 odd Bangladeshi supporters sporting their national team jerseys, did have their moments of joy, but the Pakistani batsmen soon took the wind out of their opponents’ sails as they walloped their way to an imposing total.
Walking in at number four, Afridi – who once held the record for the fastest century in One-day Internationals – was immediately at his destructive best.
The stadium reverberated with chants of “Boom Boom Afridi” as the 36-year-old carted the bowlers to all parts of the ground, hitting four towering sixes and an equal number of boundaries. There was a tinge of disappointment in the crowd after he missed his fifty by one run, holing out in the deep.
Buoyed by their team’s recent performances including at the Asia Cup on home soil, the Bangladeshi supporters appeared gung-ho about the team, but were soon left exasperated and disappointed as Pakistan tightened their grip on the match and finally won by 55 runs.
Though disappointed at their team’s dismal performance, many of the Bangladeshi supporters, however, are ecstatic at being able to witness the match at the historic stadium.
“It has been a dream for us to watch a match at the Eden and we ourselves created a sort of history with three generations witnessing the match,” said Tohifful Rehman, who watched the match along with his 65-year-old father and 15-year-old daughter.
Frustrated with the team’s performance and huge support for Pakistan, a Bangladeshi journalist couldn’t help quipping, “It seems Kolkata has become Karachi”.
A few Bangladeshi and Pakistani flags also fluttered in the crowd.
Interestingly, notices have been put up across the hallowed stadium warning spectators against wrongful display or insult to the Indian national flag.
(Anurag Dey can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)