Cricket diplomacy, in-law style

Cricket has done for Ruma Pal and Banya Gupta what Delhi and Islamabad wish it would do for their countries: strengthen a bond as prone to crumble as the Indian batting against Pakistani bowling.

The 50-something duo, "in-laws" through the marriage of their children, were among the first to reach Block G of the Eden Gardens on Thursday to indulge in their shared love of a game that has brought them closer.

"We have known each other for three years, though our children married just a year ago. But it's only recently that we discovered both of us love cricket. So we decided to watch a match at Eden together," said Banya, whose son Sutirtha is married to Ruma's daughter Arundhati.

Banya, a resident of Baranagar, had reached Sovabazar, where Ruma lives, by 10am. The two of them reached the ground well before the toss at 11.30am, when there were barely 15,000-odd people in a ground that holds 68,000.

"Ruma gets tickets from the CAB quota. So I had requested her to take me along if she had a spare ticket. I am so glad she remembered that and called me a few days ago, asking if I would like to go for the game," Banya recalled.

The two mothers-in-law aren't the clap-when-everyone-does fans who make up a section of the crowd at any cricket ground. Ruma and Banya know a good-toss-to win from a bad-decision-to-field as well as the expert in the next seat.

So when jamai babu M.S. Dhoni called correctly but chose to field, Banya was iffy about the decision. Ruma, seemingly more knowledgeable about "conditions" at the Eden, thought it was the right decision.

"Don't you see it is overcast? Some amount of moisture must have seeped into the pitch (because of the rain early on Thursday). The ball will move and that is what (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni wants to exploit," Ruma declared.

A little later, when Ashok Dinda elicited "aahs" of exasperation from the crowd by bowling bouncers that were declared wide, Ruma blamed the recent change in rules to allow two bouncers in an over instead of one. "This is probably encouraging him to overdo the short stuff," she surmised.

When the Pakistani batsmen pummelled the Indian bowlers till almost the halfway stage of the innings, Banya and Ruma rued that Dhoni had become an unimaginative captain. "The pace attack isn't doing anything. Why isn't he using his spinners more?" the duo chorused.

If there's talk of captaincy skills at Eden, can Sourav Ganguly be far behind?

India's plight gave Banya the chance to say how much she missed the leadership of her favourite cricketer.

Ruma quipped that Sachin Tendulkar, her favourite, would have "spoken to the bowlers" had he been around.

Just when there seemed to be a minor disagreement between the in-laws, Ravindra Jadeja shattered Mohammad Hafeez's stumps and cricket diplomacy triumphed once again.

Do you know of a pair like Banya and Ruma united by cricket? Tell


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