Most of them had come to see runs from Sourav Ganguly’s blade. They had filled the Eden Gardens Saturday to see him lead Pune Warriors India to a victory over the Kolkata Knight Riders, which had dumped him as a player a year back, in their crucial Indian Premier League (IPL) clash.
But they were left with mixed feelings. The left-hander played a useful knock but his side finished on the losing end in a thriller.
Ganguly overcame initial jitters to post 36 off 35 balls and was involved in a 73-run stand with Angelo Mathews (35 off 27 balls) after the Warriors seemed to be tottering at 55/5 in reply to the Knight Riders’ 150/5.
Just when it seemed that Ganguly and Mathews would carry their team to a spectacular win, egged on by the crowd, the 'Prince of Kolkata' holed out to Iqbal Abdulla off Rajat Bhatia, taking the fizz out of the run chase.
While Ganguly’s substantial number of fans at the stadium fell silent, the Kolkata Knight Riders’ flags were out in large numbers.
From then on, the game turned the Knight Riders’ way as the Warriors lost wickets at regular intervals and the asking rate continued to climb up, In the end, the Warriors fell seven short of the rival's total.
In the afternoon, the stands inside the stadium looked bright with a sea of team Pune supporters dressed in their blue jersey and roars of 'Dada' (as Sourav Ganguly is fondly called) could be heard aloud.
As their favourite Ganguly walked out to the ground for toss, the stadium erupted in loud roars cheering the player who has given them many a memorable sporting moments.
The Knight Riders played the good hosts. "KKR welcomes Dada back to Eden Gardens", read the display on the giant screen.
With the cracker of an atmosphere at the stadium, Ganguly conceded he was tense.
“To be honest, a bit of nerves, hopefully they will settle down over time,” he said during the toss.
Another deafening shout went up when Ganguly's name was announced as the team members' names were read out over the public address system.
All eyes seemed to follow Ganguly on the field during the Knight Riders' innings.
Whenever the ball went to Ganguly in the field there were loud cheers. The decibel increased as Ganguly once dived to stop a hit and then took a catch at mid off.
As the Warriors came to bat, and started losing wickets, there was disappointment among the crowd at Ganguly dropping himself down the batting order.
And when the southpaw walked in, the ovation was spontaneous.
However, Ganguly’s initial discomfiture did not go down well with crowd. “May be he should retire and become the coach of Pune,” said a young woman sitting at the Club House stand.
But as Ganguly played some good shots the 'Dadamania' came back.
The anti-climax came a little later as Ganguly got out and started his long walk to the pavilion amid a standing ovation from the crowd. Many felt nostalgic realising it could well be the local hero’s last big game at his “home” ground.