On paper this match was no different to any of the 74 IPL matches in season five. In Kolkata, however, it was a lot more than that. It marked the return of the Prince of Kolkata, Sourav Ganguly, to the Eden Gardens after he was snubbed by the local franchise, Kolkata Knight Riders, at the auctions the previous year.
Passions were high and Wasim Akram, the bowling coach of KKR, said the atmosphere was akin to a match between India and Pakistan. Few players in cricket divided opinions like Ganguly. Fewer still could rouse passions among their fans, especially in Kolkata. In 2005, Ganguly was dropped from the India team and when they showed up in Kolkata for a one-day international against South Africa, the home team were booed throughout the game.
Something similar was expected as Ganguly made his return to the Eden Gardens as the captain of Pune Warriors. Four days earlier, 10,000 tickets were released and 25,000 prospective buyers showed up. Those fans who missed out went on a rampage. On match day, 70,000 fans filled the stands and cheered every dot ball as KKR batted first. Even Ganguly, waving his arm to direct his field, was greeted with a deafening roar.
When Pune batted, it was an impatient crowd who waited for their hero to appear. After the fall of the fifth wicket Ganguly finally entered the arena to a riotous greeting. When he was dismissed for a 35-ball 36 the fans were stunned into silence, even those supporting KKR dared not celebrate lest they offend the huge majority.
Then, as Ganguly approached the dugout, the crowd rose to their feet and applauded as one.
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