The city of Kolkata is a city like no other in India. Steeped in history and tradition, the capital of Bengal has often been described as an experience that one must undertake at some point. And that feeling can be personified by one of Kolkata’s most iconic landmarks, the Eden Gardens.
Surprisingly, Kokata never had many cricketing heroes as most of their cricketers never truly made it in the national side. That is until Saurav Ganguly entered the scene and captured the imagination of every Bengali in the city.
Between 2000 and 2005, ‘Dada’ ruled Indian cricket and has rightly earned his place as one of Indian cricket’s greatest captains. But things started to unravel for Ganguly in the mid 2000s as an ugly fight with the coach led to his subsequent dismissal from the national side.
Kolkata could not accept this and they made their feelings heard in 2005 when South Africa played India at the Eden Gardens. The once rabid Indian fans had now turned on their own team as they jeered the home team and cheered the South Africans on to victory.
It was a shocking moment. While Ganguly must have been touched by the support that he received from the huge crowd at the Garden that night he must have realized that it would eventually mean no international cricket would come to Kolkata for the next few years.
By 2008, the IPL had arrived and Kolkata had their own team supported by it’s part-owner Shahrukh Khan. The Bollywood megastar was front and center during the promotions of the Knight Riders, as brand KKR became an extension of brand SRK.
With ‘Dada’ back as the captain and Shahrukh as the owner, KKR seemingly had the recipe for success. But things did not pan out that way as the team faced three very difficult years in the beginning as their passionate support off the pitch did not yield any success on the field.
In 2011, Shahrukh took a huge risk when he did not pick Ganguly in his squad and instead chose to build a new look side around Gautam Gambhir. It was a decision that turned out brilliantly for SRK, as the Knight Riders slowly became one of the best teams in the IPL, even winning the tournament twice in three years.
And finally Kolkata had something to cheer again. With their lack of cricketing heroes coupled with the treatment dished out to their beloved ‘Dada’, Kolkata become disillusioned with Indian cricket as a whole.
With Kolkata’s domestic teams also not doing very well, the citizens decided to support their football teams with verve and passion as opposed to their cricket teams.
But the IPL and SRK changed all that.
Shahrukh played a huge role in setting up a team that made every Bengali proud as they finally had one of their own teams who was successful.
SRK does not dance around anymore at the matches, but Kolkata will forever be indebted to him as he brought back it’s smile and ensured that the Eden Gardens rejoiced once again!