City of Joy set to root for the Calypso kings.
Gautam Bhattacharyya, Sports Editor
Kolkata: It's a strange coincidence that like last time when Kolkata hosted a World Cup final nearly 30 years back, India did not figure in it. However, going by the mood in the city - which is slowly coming to terms with the terrible flyover collapse tragedy on Thursday - there is no doubt whom they will be rooting for when the West Indies square off against England in the World Twenty20 final on Sunday.
The West Indians have, much like Brazil in football, captured the imagination of the cricket buffs in this city and it will be reflected in the mood in the stands - which promises to have an "almost full" turnout despite the Wankhede heartbreak in the semi-finals. The fact that Kolkatans will get the bonus of cheering two sets of maroon shirts (with their women's team featuring against Australia in the first final) will also be an unique experience for them.
"Yes, there is an emotional connect of the cricket fans here with the Caribbeans for the brand of cricket they play. It's also shared by the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), whose annual blood donation camp is called the Frank Worrell Day in honour of one of their legendary captains," remarked one of the veteran club officials loitering about at the buzzing first floor of the CAB headquarters. The CAB observes its Foundation Day on February 3 every year with a blood donation camp ever since 1981, honouring the memory of Worrell who had donated blood for a critically injured Indian captain Nari Contractor when he was hit by a Roy Gilchrist delivery back in 1962.
If the historical significance is somewhat lost on the new age cricket fan, they are taken in by the pyrotechnics of a Chris Gayle or Kieron Pollard or the mesmerising magic of mystery spinner Sunil Narine, who had been a standout performer for the local IPL franchise Kolkata Knight Riders. Add to that the unique celebratory styles of the top West Indian cricketers - and it explains what makes them such popular ambassadors of the game.
"It's a matter of pride that the West Indian cricketers have carved a niche for themselves in the world of T20 franchise cricket. If they manage to win the trophy here on Sunday, it will be their second world crown in three editions," pointed out Ian Bishop, the fast bowler-turned-TV pundit at a reception hosted by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for the media assembled here to cover the final.
In a delightful chat show with the ICC CEO Dave Richardson held at the premises of Calcutta Sports Journalists' Club (CSJC), Bishop admitted he was not particularly hopeful about Darren Sammy's men in the run-up to the event. "With the likes of Pollard and Lendl Simmons out with injuries and Narine ruled out from bowling, I did not really know what to expect from them. The women's team, on the other hand, showed a steady performance graph in the last five years," Bishop said.
Sammy, meanwhile, was at his candid best as to what really spurred on the West Indies during the last three weeks of their campaign.
"All the pre-tournament shenanigans, during which we were even branded as a bunch of money-grabbing cricketers, helped us grow together as a team," he said at the pre-match media conference on Saturday.
With both their teams in line to lay hands on the World Cup on Sunday evening - and their Under-19 squad having lifted the world crown last year - the cricket romantic in one would love to see them make it a triple crown. There have been many a false dawn for the Calypso kings in the recent past but for now, one would be inclined to believe in the words of Whycliffe 'Dave' Cameron, the CEO of West Indian Cricket Board (WICB) in an interview here.
"It is the beginning of the revival process. The success of our Under-19, ladies and men's team proves we are in the right direction," he said.
The Super Sunday of T20 cricket at the Eden can only vindicate his stance.
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