CALCUTTA: Fans thronged temples for prayers and national flags were fluttering atop local clubs in this cricket-mad city yesterday as India prepared for their opening World Cup tie against minnows Holland.
The tone was set over the weekend when cricket enthusiasts held a Hindu ritual at the city's famed Kalighat temple to seek divine blessing for the Indian team.
Chanting hymns and offering timber into the ritual fire, Calcutta Mayor Subrata Mukherjee announced he would personally receive skipper Sourav Ganguly on his arrival to his home town from South Africa if the team wins the Cup next month.
“Calcutta municipal corporation will erect a plaque in the city as a token of gift to the Indian team if it brings the World Cup to the country,” the emotionally-charged mayor said.
He has already asked the city architect to find a suitable site for the plaque.
Ganguly's elder brother, Snehashis, also joined in the prayers.
Haircuts sported by Indian heroes, especially master-blaster Sachin Tendulkar and Ganguly, have found many takers.
Not to be left behind, hairdressers in the city's fashionable salons have started to dress up in the Indian team's light-blue jerseys.
“We have collected photographs of the Indian cricket World Cup from different newspapers and magazines and followed their hair styles,” said the Samiran Sarkar, owner of a hair salon in Esplanade, the city's fashion hub.
“The World Cup spirit has gripped the city's millions of young cricket fans. We want to cash in on the feverish excitement over the game.”
Giant wood and paper cutouts of the World Cup can be seen at traffic roundabouts.
Photographs of Indian players and small replicas of the World Cup are selling like hot cakes.
“I have opened a special counter to sell World Cup items,” said Nabin Singh, owner of a fashion goods store in Burabazar, the city's business district.
At the city's upscale New Alipore residential district, residents paid artists to paint graffiti of Indian players, draped in the national flag.
India are odds-on favourites to beat the qualifiers Holland when they meet in Paarl, near Cape Town, today. – AFP