I could feel exactly what Sandeep was feeling the moment he stepped in the box for his shot. I could see myself withstanding the same enormous pressure that Rajib da was experiencing. I could hear the prayers that Soumya Si was saying silently as he was the next to go. I could feel the desperation in the faces of Indranil Roy, Sutanu Mondal to name a few. A mounting tension was visible on everyone’s face, yet an outstanding spirit held us beyond everything.
Someone was so accurate in quoting Eternity as the last two minutes of a football game. But behind those two minutes are years after years of struggle, months after months of preparation, and a lot of determination, which is the story behind every champions and that is exactly the Bug Hunter Story – from shackles to success.
But before beginning the tale I couldn’t resist to quote a line once written by Indranil da (popularly known as Nil da) which read “I still remember, in year 2005, we struggled to form team to represent in the football fiesta. We were knocked off in the Quarters then. The last 2 years have been very disappointing” seriously it was…
The Hunter Mania
Football fiesta for us was not just another sporting event but it was a passion, a fire that kept us going, the going which travelled miles, and the mile which returned smile in a lot of disappointed faces. As heard from Imon Banerjee not only did we struggle to form team, but also we did struggle to put up a decent show. Year after year it was the same story, only the name of teams that crushed us kept on changing. I was more surprised to hear that not only bug hunter had never won a game but also they never could score against any opponent. But this is not a tale of misfortunes but is about how with some courage, determination and passion you can turn around and stand tall amidst the champions.
My first practice session was on 16th of May in the lush field of Salt lake GD block. I can still remember only a few turned up including Sandeep, Simanta, Imon, Bhadra, Dhruv, Sanchayan, Rajib da and Sayan Dutta (Sayan Dutta later couldn’t play due to onsite commitments). It was terrible I couldn’t even play for ten minutes at a stretch. For over 2 years out of practice it was drenching me out soon I had to sit out with a terrible pain. And with just over 20 days left for kick off it wasn’t the start we were expecting, turnouts at the practices were very low. I still remember I had never seen everyone in the starting line up in a single day at practice. And especially if it was a weekday turn outs were in single figures. Amidst that, one person whose determination impressed me the most was Subhankar Debnath. Subhankar played in the middle for us and every single day he would be the first person to turn up for the practices and also the last person to leave the ground. His stamina was highly enviable, when everyone else would leave the field exhausted yet Shubhankar Debnath would be seen on the field practicing his runs, dodges, moves. Hat’s off to his stamina and determination.
Slowly yet steadily the team was getting settled, the motivation was building, the co-ordination was among the players were developing, and the spirit and a high enthusiasm was getting clearly visible. The aim or the target was already clear the only thing missing was the path to reach there, which was finally set on the 30th of May at the draw of lots. Amidst a huge vociferous support the draw of lots took place. Bug hunters were put alongside defending champions Cendant (Cendant group), first timer Goal Setters (SQAG group), and GTO Phoenix (Global Tech. Office group) in the group A. Being placed along Cendant did gave some a scare but again as rightly said Every team is made up of human so it was not of utmost importance to most of us, where Goal Setters and GTO gave us some hope yet we never wanted to feel complacent. It was after the draw when I and Sandeep overheard some anonymous Cendant fans where one asked the other about the groupings and the other replied “It’s a cakewalk, we have GTO, Goal Setters and Bug hunters, maybe we can set some records this time” and then they both laughed. I looked at Sandeep to find him smiling and only today I could understand what the smile that day meant. In the mean time the practices continued, all possibilities were tried exhaustively to find out the right combination for the starting lineup. Between practices we had moments to cheer also when in one such practice the bug hunters jersey was introduced, the famous Bug Hunter Whites, donning them was a huge experience for me, not the first of its kind but yet wearing the colors of your team is always special be it your school team or your club team.
Anxious moments almost killed us as we approached 13th June, the day of our first face off. The team was in good shaped, well equipped, extensively tried and tested. We used to share the grounds with ACS Mellon (Bug Hunters later faced ACS Mellon in the semi final) on the Saturdays where we used to play amongst each other. Unfortunately I had to play for ACS each time but the only and the biggest consolation were Bug hunters used to win all of those encounters. So as the day of the kick off approached we were not only ready but anxious to go and prove ourselves. The team comprised of talented and determined players like –
Rajib Pachal, the captain and by all means the best goal keeper I have seen in a long time. His biggest asset I believe is his agility and fitness. And also the ability to not only dream but also to make people believe in them. He was an outstanding player who stood tall right through the tournament till the end.
Firoz Kalapahad, Soumya Si, Sourabh Banerjee, Sourav Pal formed the formidable wall. Not only did they had the potential to check any attack but also could move up time to time to support the strikers, especially Sourav Pal who played outstandingly in the entire tournament and also shown some flares while playing in the middle against CSP. Soumya Si, Firoz, and Banerjee were all so well coordinated that no team ever discovered any defensive flaw.
Subhankar Debnath, Priyankar Lala, Sanchayan Paul, Pranab Sinha Roy formed the mid field which was often very essential in forming up attacks. Sanchayan Paul specially was outstanding with his wing play. He was as energetic as agile, he would breach through the opposition defense with his superb run to unselfishly put the strikers in a scoring position. How often I remember we have found goals or at least opportunities from Sanchayan’s runs. Priyankar was the powerhouse I still fail to understand how the bars did withstood his shots. He used to rip the ball apart and the role assigned to him was very simple once you get the ball make it fly above the opponents head to your scorers. Unlike Priyankar, Subhankar was more a classy act his game comprised of lots of soft touches, a dribble here a dodge there and small passes to the wings and also he was the main stopper. Pranab was also good at the wings but he was very hot tempered and honestly speaking you need a player of such temperament in every team. Every now and often he used to create chances very early in the game.
Simanta Adhikary and Sandeep Kumar Khatri were the men with the golden touches. I don’t think I need to put much effort to emphasis Sandeep’s contributions but Simanta the second highest scorer was equally responsible for lifting the trophy as much as Sandeep. Till date he was the lone striker but combined with Sandeep they became the deadly duo.
Imon Banerjee, Nilanjan Saha, Sayantan Bhadra, Debayan Ghosh were all players with potential but unfortunately injuries and other commitments ended their tournament in a very early phase. Debayan couldn’t even manage to play in a single match before the finals. He was already nursing a knee injury when he got in the team which even aggravated during the practices, his introduction in the finals even didn’t helped his cause neither ours. Imon and Sayantan showed some promise very early in the tournament. Imon even had a goal in his name also Sayantan helped in providing options in the midfield. Nilanjan was one of the main strengths in the middle even he had to leave due to personal commitments. Without the four we were barely left with any options in the mid field.
Manish Das Gupta, Dhruv Kumar Thadani, Sourav Saw, Supratik Mazumder, Soumyadeep Taral and finally yours truly, we were the bench strength. Though not much to be spoken about yet we had our shares to touch the ball once or twice. But whatever be, we were determined to win and truly passionate about the team.
Three more names without whom the team looks incomplete, and also the win would have tasted bitter are Indranil Roy, Sutanu Mondal, and Kaustav Gupta. Nil da was even more enthusiastic as anyone else, apparently he, Sutanu, Firoz, Rajib da and Somnath da were the lone survivors from the 2005 outfit and they had to bear the real pain in a journey which wasn’t as rosy as one need to believe. Yet it was there perseverance and hard work that we have reached where we are today. Whatever we did in the tournament was due to the inspiration that a many, like me drew from them. Sutanu and Kaustav looked after the entire management and we never had to take care of the logistics or any other issues, by the end Bug hunters also emerged as the most popular team in the tournament through online voting mainly due to many anonymous supporters and patrons who shared the same passion like Sutanu and Kaustav.
First Touch – Goal Setters, 13th June
The journey began on 13th June, our first match against the first timer Goal Setters. To be honest though we knew we had a strong team yet we wanted to put our steps very steadily. We took the opponents very seriously, also they were our professional rivals and hence defeating them was a big target for us. But it didn’t need much effort in making a win out of goal setters once the first goal rolled in. But it was never too easy, very early in the game Subhankar missed the simplest of chances when it seemed that a solid touch could have put the ball in the nets. And for a few minutes there on we couldn’t came close to another. Tension and anxiousness soon started to creep in the benches as we were growing restless, but soon an unselfish pass from Sandeep gave a huge relief as Simanta tugged it in the nets, Bug hunters 1 Goal setters 0. Both the halves were equally dominated by the hunters who send past 3 more in the second half. A defensive error that presented us with a penalty was well converted by Simanta, who by then had scored a brace to emerge the man of the match. The third goal was scored by Imon, a well judged header resulting from a Sandeep Khatri lob that found an unmarked Imon on the goal line. The fourth and the final was a self goal conceded by the tiring defense of the goal setters who hastily attempted to put the ball away from a neatly placed Subhankar corner but finally ended up by conceding one. Overall it wasn’t a glittering performance by the hunters, there were miss passes here and there, and lack of coordination between the midfield and the forwards, the defense was yet to be tested. What defeated the goal setters were lack of match practice, lack of experience and absence of a formidable bench strength which was easily visible. Most of the players were exhausted but couldn’t be replaced due to the lack of substitutes, where for bug hunters every player got a touch. I played my first match also on that day when I replaced Simanta Adhikary at the dying moments. I ran up and down the pitch with a countable number of touches. But overall it was not by any mean a satisfying performance as Rajib Pachal wrote after the match “let me be honest to you…Even though the score line talks about 4:0 but there are lots of improvement areas that we need to fix. Since I was standing at the Goal & had the scope of watching all our moves…let me be very honest and tell you that gel up quickly as a team.” Though we won yet no one was too happy in the dressing room as they rued over the chances that went begging.
When disaster struck – JPMC, 4th July
While we waited the much coveted Cendant tie practice was as usual at full swing and it was then when disaster struck. It was a JPMC match, one of the strong contenders of the trophy that year, though we didn’t faced JPMC in the tournament (JPMC crushed out in the Super Group stages) we decided to take them on in a practice game. The game which was played in JPMC’s practice ground cost us the most. Even though the match wasn’t a part of the tournament fixtures yet it was the match which made the most impact as we lost two of our potential players due to injury. Imon dislocated his shoulder while Sayantan Bhadra injured his knees playing in that match following which they couldn’t again participate in any of the matches further. I and Sandeep were late for the match that day, by the time we reached the ground Imon was already injured and Rajib da with few others had left the ground immediately taking him to the hospital while Sayantan Bhadra during a deep run collided with a defender and collapsed immediately mostly due to the uneven surface. The whole incident made us a bit wary while Imon especially was very sad while he had to rest in his home while the entire team was out against Cendant. But he returned back for practice once he was allowed to, though he was not permitted to play he used to observe our moves, give important suggestions about the flaws and mistakes. Sayantan soon assumed himself fit to play but couldn’t continue as the injury was lot deeper than he had expected. In the meantime the tournament also took a break following some unsporting incident on the ground.
First Disappointment – Cendant, 11th July.
Finally after a lot of speculation and wait we took the field against Cendant on 11th July. We had utilized the break well in preparing strategies and reading players of the opponent. We were told to be cautious of Mukhuty and Ashish Sarkar by the veterans from the last year. And on that day we couldn’t have been more confident and prepared. A changed starting lineup consisting of Rajib, Soumya, Pal, Banerjee, Firoz, Priyankar, Shubhankar, Nilanjan, Sanchayan, Simanta, and Sandeep took ground and right from the kick off we dominated the run of play, we even came close to scoring in one or two occasions but an equally competent Cendant defense were spot on at their jobs. Finally, minutes before the close of first half we were awarded a free kick just at the edge of the box. As decided Priyankar was preparing to take the shot but a highly confident Sandeep Khatri wished to fancy his chance. He hit the ball in an immaculate angle, the ball lobbed and twisted before finally flying over the keeper’s head and just brushed below the bars to find the net, G-O-A-L screamed the entire bug hunter clan. It was Bug hunters 1 Cendant 0, something which no one, not a single person who followed soccer in cognizant could believe. Yes it was hard to believe for many of us also but those on the field they knew it. They knew it from the beginning that defeating Cendant will be very crucial for our prospects in the later phase of the tournament and hence even in the breaks no one was talking to play defensive. We wanted to move forward, attack more, we were not happy with 1-0 we wanted to win with a bigger and enviable margin. But the second half didn’t go the way we had planned, Cendant came back strongly. The counter attacks became more ferocious and more frequent and in one of those disaster struck. Sudipta Paul, the veteran Cendant striker, made a run from the midfield when he dribbled and dodged through us right up to our box. That was also the only memorable tactical error by the ever vigilant bug hunter defense. I still fail to understand why no one opted to go for a tackle at the first place; Sudipta was surrounded by at least 6 hunters and no one even tried to snatch the ball away from him. Finally it happened which no one in the bench or among the supporters anticipated, Sudipta saw Sourabh Banerjee advancing quickly for a final tackle so he hesitatingly pushed the ball towards the hunter goal which then rolled past slowly along the ground to barely just cross the line. The entire team looked on in horror as Rajib Pachal stood stranded in his position as his vision was blocked by one of us who was standing between him and the scorer. This tactical error cost us even more as Rajib da couldn’t act in time and had to watch the ball roll past him. When the final whistle was blown it was a goal each for both the teams. Once the legendary Gary Linekar famously quoted “There’s no in between – you’re either good or bad. We were in between” so were we in that game. An exhausted defense failed to stand up to the standards till the last, and those in the bench are perhaps still thinking what a fresh pair of legs might have done. We could have won the game which would certainly have placed us in the second stage ahead of the defending champs. But we let them snatch the victory which no one else deserved. Also the match was considered highly controversial owing to a low standard of referring as several decisions went against both the teams.
True Colors – GTO Phoenix, 17th July.
The statistics were clear before we went in for our third encounter where if we win or even tie we were going through, if we lose GTO would go through. And one positive from the last game was that Sandeep Khatri had joined the goal rush which became more apparent when he scored a brace in the thumping 5-0 win. In the mean time bug hunters found a new patron in Suman Das, who had recently taken charge of the testing services. Suman Das used to be present in all the games increasing our morale and supporting us through every situation. So with a renewed energy we took on the GTO Phoenix which turned out to be a rather one sided affair. Sandeep scored a couple, Nilanjan scored one, and Simanta scored another as the last one was again a same side when a goal bound shot from Sandeep slightly brushed a defender. I still remember how much he cursed the referee for awarding the goal as same side when it was clearly a goal bound shot that didn’t even deviated much to be called a same side, he was very upset on denial of his hat trick. But it turned out to be a perfect farewell gift for Nilanjan who played his last match against ILOB just a few days later, as he had decided to quit cognizant for further studies, he was indeed a great player of the game. A promising winger and a potential hunter without whom the team looked incomplete, he decided against his substitution and carried on playing though having high fevers and yet he scored a splendid goal. And it was the determination of players like Nilanjan that not only we went through, we were the group champs ahead of Cendant, an achievement itself. I could savor the winning moments as I had the chance to be on the field during the final whistle as replacement of Nilanjan in the second half.
Invasion begins – Invaders, 22nd July
By this time everyone of us started feeling how close we were to the trophy, a team which didn’t ever scored a goal, leave aside winning, is now going to play the Super Group stage as the group champion and it is needless to say how well we kept the legacy going. We took on Invaders, another group champion, on the 22nd of July. Invaders were a balanced team but the way we played it was outstanding. The main reason for such a successful run was that in each game we used to strike very early and once your opponent is pushed back so early it is really very difficult for them to pull back. Same happened that day when Sandeep once again struck very early in the game to push Invaders down. Invaders couldn’t even recover from the earlier blow and Simanta scored another to push them further down so much that they couldn’t recover and conceded the game 2-0 in another one sided game. Once again I had the opportunity to replace Pranab when I came on in the middle of the second half. We were playing so smoothly that there was no pressure what so ever on any one. The only thing which I remember about my game was a foul which I committed while challenging an Invader in middle of his run. He found himself on the ground as the ball rolled out of play, thanks to the referee who didn’t considered taking my names in the book. Overall a satisfying performance in which Simanta was adjudged man of the match for his stellar performance.
Strength of Character – ILOB Match, 29th July
Next stop Insurance United (ILOB) one of our arch rivals. Be it cricket or soccer Insurance was the main rivals of the hunters, from what I learn is that they played a major role in hunter’s exit in the previous editions of the tournament. So the ILOB clash was more of a prestige issue than a normal soccer match. And the Insurance team itself made it difficult for us, each of them took good advantage of their heights and played mostly aerial. But one error that they committed was setting up the off side trap. Not only did it back fired but also diverted much of their attention from attacking to trapping our forwards. And as early as in the 10th minute a through ball from Simanta found Sandeep on-side at the defense line which stood almost at the centre. A valiant Sandeep out ran all the defenders to score a smart goal being one on one with the Insurance keeper. Sandeep’s goal lifted the morale of the team and in the remaining half the hunters posed attack after attack. The second half however belonged to ILOB, aerial play characterized with long passes out smarted most of our mid field yet they failed to get one past through the combination of a vigilant Rajib Pachal and an energetic Sourav Pal. But soon ILOB found some rhythm going and a series of repeated counter attacks kept mounting the pressure on the hunter wall and finally in the 35th minute they succeeded in getting a penalty when Sourav Pal handled the ball unintentionally inside the box. A confident Arjun Singh came forward for the shot which was so crucial for ILOB’s chances of survival, he couldn’t have afforded to miss it and so he didn’t, a ferocious blast took off which almost ripped the nets apart , a shot for which even Rajib da didn’t had any answer. Bug hunters 1 ILOB 1 and slowly we were approaching the end of the game. Though we were not satisfied yet we had kind of accepted the result. Because at one time it was even difficult to hold on to the lead as flurry of ILOB counter attacks found us helpless and stranded, it was then when even Simanta decided to step down and play from the defense, attack was out of question. Sandeep was standing down the ILOB defenses but barely got any pass as all the passes were played between the ILOB players. I went in replacing Pranab and found out how difficult it was to match the pace and fury of the ILOB players and how easily they were outsmarting us. We were struggling even to reach for the balls leave alone making a pass, but luck itself was playing for Bug Hunters that day as minutes before the close of play a fatal mistake from the ILOB custodian saw us through. The keeper passed the ball to one of their defender as both of them were unaware of the lurking danger in form of the cunning Sanchayan Paul, who was eventually returning after completing a run. He saw the opportunity and came from behind to snatch the ball and kick it instantly to the right of the keeper. It was a goal, the goal that everyone savored and will continue doing so for a long time, the goal that not only ended up the drought for Sanchayan who had been there with the hunters outfit for few years now but also lifted us a stage further up, this time the semis. We were through and Sourav Pal was adjudicated the man of the match for his valiant efforts. So sweet was the victory that after the game was over Pranab wrote – “WE ARE NOT SLEEPING,-WE ARE AWAKE.-WE KNOW HOW TO FIGHT THE BATTLES,-TO BREAK THE BARRIERS-WITH NO FEAR IN US.-ORIGINATE THE MEANING OF WIN,-3 CHEERS FOR US,-WE ARE THE BUGHUNTERS.”
ACS or Cendant ? – CSP, 5th August
The ILOB match exposed several technical flaws and incapability among us and we took each of them seriously, discussed them with others, rectified them and by the time we went on the pitch against CSP we were again back to our self but this time without Nilanjan. Nilanjan who had already made a mark in the tournament was someone who was to be missed throughout the rest of the tournament, he was irreplaceable. Before leaving though he had left a note for everyone which says “Hope I will be there in the ground to support all of you in rest of the matches. This is really a golden opportunity for Testing and don’t lose it. I really want to see Rajib da lifting the champion’s trophy…that will also be a great moment for me.” which made me realize how people like us here in Cognizant mix passion with business and it also gave the much needed morale. Also center back Soumya Si couldn’t play due to his personal commitments so Sourav Saw got a game, but it was nothing more than a ritual as both CSP and we were through and only the group champ and runner position was yet to be decided. CSP came real close to become the group champion through an early strike by Abhisek Gupta while the defense was found once again stranded appealing for an alleged hand ball, while Abhisek took the opportunity to tuck the ball past Rajib da. But no game could have finished in that edition without a Sandeep Khatri show and that day also a timely conversion from Sandeep helped us regain the position of Group champs. Once again I had the opportunity to be on the ground, this time much longer as I started the second half replacing Sourav Saw but my performance was something to quickly forget and rather not mention here. Few positives from the game were, we could test the reserve players, Sourav Pal played extremely well when he went up to play in the mid field, we identified potential threats in the CSP team which helped us a lot later, also the introduction of Soumyadeep Taral gave us some option in the wing play as he showed much promise in his first game. Next stop Semi finals.
Almost there – ACS Mellon, Semi Finals, 14th August
We were to play against the dark horses of the tournament – ACS Mellon, a well acquainted rival. While CSP sweated it out against Cendant we were the natural favorites against ACS. Both the team knew each other’s playing style very well and it was quite obvious that Sandeep Khatri will find it extremely difficult to play as freely as he was allowed till then. Moreover the last few games had exposed a slight vulnerability in the right side of the hunter wall and we were sure that ACS will be targeting that through Sumanta Bose and Satyajit Basak. And for the first time in the tournament we decided to change our strategy, Firoz was asked to play from the left and he was replaced by Sourav Pal, who till then was very impressive throughout. ACS also had some surprises in stock but more or less they played with the same strategy as we thought. Sumanta Bose played against Firoz regardless of the side he played, Kunal Kumar (kuku) was tagged with Sandeep, and for a second I thought he might even accompany him home that day. The game brought out the best in a lot of players while the turf played the spoil sport, not a single patch of green was visible and the base was so soft that it was impossible to make a run on that pitch. Even the balls couldn’t be hit far as they didn’t bounced once hitting the ground which actually played villain in the game. Priyankar Lala emerged the man of the match with his fine match play, accurate passing, lethal shots which came real close to conversion and few of which hit the cross bar. But as I said earlier no game could have finished in that edition without a Sandeep Khatri show as a reluctant defender passed the ball back to Subhankar Jana, the ACS custodian, but the ball got slow and stuck in the mud. Subhankar was slow to response as Sandeep snapped it up like a falcon and shot it past a diving Subhankar for the maiden goal of the game. The match ended that way, even a late bloom by ACS through Subhankar who got himself replaced to come on as a striker couldn’t help their cause. But the match was one of the forgettable matches in the entire tournament where none of the teams played to their full potential, a soiled turf playing the villain, and the match itself held the reputation of being played with a lot of body contact where the referee had to reach for the cards quite often. But it was good enough to take us through to the finals as we awaited the winner of CSP-Cendant tie. A proud Suman Das forwarded the news to the entire testing offshore, he wrote “All, It gives me immense pride and pleasure to share with you all that the soccer team from the Testing practice at Kolkata, aptly called BUGHUNTERS, has reached the finals of the Cognizant Kolkata Soccer League (Football Fiesta) for the first time since it started 4 yrs back. There were 16 teams in 4 groups and was a grueling task to work the way up to the finals. We never lost a single match in the tournament this year. In finals we clash with the CSP United on Friday (22nd August) afternoon at the Salt Lake Municipal grounds. It will be terrific if any of you can make it there. Nevertheless need all your good wishes, prayers and blessings so that coupled with the enthusiasm of the young brigade that we have, we win the tournament!”
CSP defeated Cendant in the tie breaker and booked a date with us in the finals of the prestigious Football Fiesta 2008. On 22nd August we stood knocking in the Bidhannagar Municipal Ground at door of Eternity, rightly described by someone as the last two minutes of a football game. Somnath da had asked everyone to assemble at the Technopolis from where everyone would leave for the ground together. Right from the morning the atmosphere was quite electric, everyone started recognizing the players coming down to wish luck, mails after mails of best wishes flooded the mail box. Imon wrote that day “Dear Friends, The time has come when we live up to the pledge we made to ourselves, to Team Bug hunters and to the ALMIGHTY. We have come a long way, storming past all blockades, just one more still remains…….CSP UNITED Lets prove to one and all what mettle we are made up of….We have played like Champions let’s get the TROPHY that’s due of us……..We would all gather today at the Test Lab at Technopolis 9th floor, at 2.00PM. We would be starting together for the field by 2.30 PM. Please be present there and don’t forget your kits J” Before leaving for Technopolis I myself tried to motivate some and so I wrote “Hi Friends, This is the last time we can read or compose such mails, because at 4.30 its all meaningless. But only we can bring out the true meaning of the word “SWEET SUCCES” In the game of 90 minutes, be it Maradona, be it Pele, or be it Beckham no one gets to touch the ball for more than 5 minutes. It is that 5 minutes that separates champions from players. We had all the odds against us, but we made it even to all our arch rivals, it is that confidence, the bug hunter confidence that has made us all ruthless. If all of us play our best football for at least 6 minutes, the team plays well for 60 minutes. Because what awaits beyond that 60 minutes is – Immortality. There was a day when we were booed off, There was a day when we were written off, There was a day when we were defeated, There was a day when we were plunged into yet another year of wilderness……..BUT TODAY IS NOT THAT DAY, TODAY WE WILL CELEBRATE AS A BUGHUNTERS DAY. We had the measure of the CSP team earlier – lets hunt them down….”
Technopolis on that day was in a different mood, the entire ninth floor was buzzing with news and talks about their very own team. About how Sandeep Khatri raged his battle to become the top scorer of the game, how Sanchayan put that one through against ILOB, how every other team failed to content with the bug hunter attacks. But the biggest surprise in store was a lovely arrangement made by the ladies of the testing fraternity. We had to line up before them as they went on rounds applying ‘tilak’ on each of us then praying for us with the ‘arti’ and offering us curds, an auspicious ceremony that brings good luck. And after everyone was through we started for our final journey. We reached the ground before the designated time and started warming up. Soon the supporters followed buses arranged to bring them on the ground started arriving one by one. Soon the entire ground was buzzing with cheers and slogans. The CSP supporters were the loudest sporting orange head gears (the color of their outfit), trumpets, and banners also the bug hunter support didn’t put a bad effort to match them from noise to noise. The occasion was also graced by chief guests like Surajit Sengupta, eminent footballer from yesteryear, and many others. After the handshaking ceremony and the toss both the teams posed for a team photo, the final one of that year because beyond that hour for one of the teams lies yet another year in gloom and despair.
Champions in the making – CSP, finals, 22nd August
The match finally started with both the teams looking to make a mark very early. Everyone fancied their chances against the opponent but no one could come closer to a real chance. The desperateness of both the teams was clearly evident but no one other than Suranjoy Saha could leave an impact for CSP. He was splendid in that match, played everywhere, wherever the ball was going one can find Suranjoy there. At one time it became really difficult for us to evade him and pass the ball forward. Sandeep that day was playing from a bit lower than he normally plays yet he struggled to get a pass. The condition of the pitch was slightly better than what we found in the semis but still it wasn’t of the standards of a final. Running was extremely difficult so was making the through passes hence we had to resort to either short passes or inaccurate aerial play. The problem with the short passes were you have to again make yourself available anticipating the return as soon as you release the ball, but the slowness of the pitch not only made it difficult but also sometimes the ball stopped rather unusually in the middle, hence a flurry of miss passes from both the side dominated the entire match. So we had to resort to the aerial play which was not only inaccurate at times but also was so difficult to play. The soft mud created an uncertainty in the bounce, once an aerial pass from Priyankar found Sandeep unmarked but the ball stopped uncharacteristically once it hit the ground few yards away from Sandeep, also sometime in the second half it bounced over Simanta’s head when he was anticipating it to stop. But the closest we came to the trophy was in the second half when a through pass evaded a struggling defense to find Simanta and just before two of their backies rushed in for a challenge he managed to volley the ball over his head. The ball swooped up in the air out of the reach of the defenders and a jumping CSP goalie but it brushed the outer net and went out for a goal kick. Simanta and Sanchayan both played exceptionally well that day, Sanchayan specially was the man behind maintaining a constant pressure with his evading runs, and cunning passes as Simanta always looked threatening in the face of the goal. CSP also came close to score, in one of which they came really close from the far corner, but a vigilant defense and a rock solid goal keeping deprived them from glory. Even the man of the tournament couldn’t put an impact on the match, which ended goalless in the stipulated time. An excitement filled all around the field for the dreaded penalty shoot outs and a strange nervousness started finding place within us. We were never been tested in a tie breaker situation earlier, it was true that since the Super Group stages we were practicing the shoot outs regularly but yet we were not sure how well we can perform when it matters. Subhankar, Simanta, Priyankar, Sandeep, and Soumya Si that was how it was to be, Simanta and Priyankar used to perform really well during the practices and we never had any confusion about their abilities. We never had any doubt in the abilities of anyone but honestly we had a fear, something which craved out of the desperation and the long wait, also it was the fear of failure after putting so much effort and after reaching that place from where glory was just for the taking but glory never came like that not even to them who deserved it. It made sure that you not only sweat but also struggle for it, because that is when one could realize the true meaning behind Sweet Success.
Soumya Si had a very bad conversion record and Subhankar was very experimental when it came to his shots which well seldom paid off. Sandeep could never make himself available in the practices as we decided in favor of resting him ahead of the crucial ties, but we were sure he will convert his chance quite easily. But then again it was down not to personal abilities or team coordination but to luck, sheer luck. A luck which found victim in greats like Robert Baggio, David Beckham, even Maradona holds a strange record of missing a number of penalties at a row (as told in El Diego). On the other hand CSP was a seasoned unit they have already tested the shoot outs when they defeated the mighty Cendant in only their previous game most of their players must be feeling pumped up and confident in running the show this time also.
CSP was to take the first shot as Suranjoy Saha walked up to his mark very slowly. We were not allowed to stay with the team and as we stood watching from the side lines a huge crowd mobbed behind the goal loudly cheering and booing. Rajib Pachal walked to his favorite spot rather confidently, he was as natural as one can get between the bars, and he possessed a great anticipation and some supersonic reflexes. And once the whistle went out amidst the huge desperation, hope, and anticipation, prevailed a killing silence as Suranjoy slowly leapt forward and BANG. He had hit the ball right in the middle and effortlessly a valiant Rajib Pachal fisted it away. The silence was broken by loud applauds by the bug hunter supporters which even gained in momentum when Subhankar Debnath walked past the failed Suranjoy for his chance.
Subhankar was left footed and hence it was decided that he will go in first to comply with some combinational strategy. Honestly nothing works when you are standing in front of the spot, when the huge goal seems somewhere hiding behind the keeper, and when the whole world seems to be looking at you. Something similar happened to Subhankar that day too as the cheers grew louder and louder, in a hurry to score Subhankar took the shot from his right. This was the chance for the CSP supporters to make them audible as a brilliant dive to his right saved CSP from going a goal down. Subhankar lost his last chance to score for the hunters and had to walk down from the spot which undoubtedly will be the longest anywhere in the world.
Rajib Pachal took guard once again a tall lanky CSP striker came up for the shot, in the meantime the supporters got engaged in a fight of their own. Both the groups never got tired hooting for their teams or booing the opponents. The atmosphere was so electric that you could feel your blood running faster than the speed of light. But the CSP supporters were in heaven this time as the CSP striker placed the ball deep at the right corner, and finally it was relief for CSP when the ball rolled past the hand of Rajib Pachal who made a despairing dive to stop it in its route. CSP 1 Bug Hunters 0.
We needed to score desperately now, Shubhankar’s miss didn’t yet prove fatal as we were still even in the game. But a failure to convert now would get them ahead of us by one shot which we couldn’t have afforded. Simanta Adhikary was confident though he was immaculate in the practices and more importantly he was a natural striker, seasoned and he was among the goals. Simanta by then had already scored four times and he was also topping the chart of the scorers in the initial phase of the game. He looked set to score against a nervous CSP custodian who did well though. The bug hunter support stood silently only for a chance to shout the rivals out, in the bench we were feeling the pressure, we could hear nothing but our heart beats, Nil da, Sutanu da along with some others couldn’t bear the tension and decided not to watch as Simanta tried a cheeky flick over the goalies head, something alike Zidane’s shot against Italy in the World Cup finals but unlike that shot, this time the CSP goalie got a touch. Anxious moments almost killed us as the entire episode still reveals in slow motion. We don’t know whether the ball would have ended inside the nets if not had been punched by the goalie, but the faint touch by the jumping goalie elevated a bit more but was too much to cut its speed down, as he fell flat on the ground so did the ball. The entire support went bizarre, and the referee also whistled approvingly as the ball fell slightly inside crossing the goal line. A huge relief for Simanta and all of us as we almost got it goofed up. CSP 1 Bug Hunters 1, once again we were back in the contest.
The next man for CSP took his time as he carefully went through the rituals of examining the ball, then the ground, and finally selecting his mark. And in the meantime I saw Rajib da poised yet focused. No one could ever gauge what was going through the mind of that person at that time. He never glanced at us or nor at the others, may be for the fear of the amount of responsibility that lied on his shoulder, rather arms, which was so clearly visible from the face of each and every member of the testing fraternity. Those who had never came this close to those who even didn’t knew the difference in corner kick and spot kick, for all of them today Rajib Pachal was the only hope, a true captain, a hero. I was so busy thinking about the possibilities of the outcome, a possible sudden death and all that I couldn’t notice when CSP took the shot. I could only realize the weight of the situation when I saw Rajib da once again fisting it out beyond the reach of glory. He also made the same mistake as Suranjoy, blasted it straight at Rajib da. But now we were looking positively to put our noses in the front. The fear we had when been asked to take the second shot was the fear of playing a catch up game which could have been thrashed out in a single shot.
And the only name which comes to your mind in situations like these is of our very own powerhouse’s – Priyankar Lala. Priyankar was impressive in the practices with the sheer power he used to generate in his shots, something which no keeper could have an answer for. But he was equally nervous at that time, when the penalties were declared he knew his services would be needed and how tensed those smiles of his were. I was going around during the break trying my bit to motivate them, lifting their spirit as much as I can, and telling how well they played and how deserving they are for victory. Priyankar seemed very restless he came towards us and asked which side to hit, we told him to decide at the last moment but he confessed that so tensed and nervous he was that he couldn’t think of anything. He told a few of us to choose a side and he will use all his powers to rip the ball through that. Pranab suggested him the right side as we patted him trying to lift his morale. Later during his shot right side it was, he walked up to the mark calmly and composing the shot in his mind he went through the job like a true professional. A loud bang followed by the disturbed nets, the CSP goalie did dived at the right decision though, but it was all over before he could reach that. Priyankar stood there for a moment as if releasing the immense pressure he took on himself and a visible smile that speaks out loudly – CSP 1 Bug Hunters 2.
The next man up for CSP already seemed very nervous and tensed we could make out the outcome of the shot a lot before it was taken. By then we were joined back by the others who earlier decided not to watch, they also started cheering the rest of the team, the trophy was so close that it felt it was as if for the taking. As of Rajib da he was determined, he had curved out a comfort zone for him below the cross bar. I could still remember the change in appearance it was a different Rajib Pachal, different from when the penalties were declared. Once the game ended goal less in the stipulated time Rajib da sat isolated at a corner with only a few around. He seemed both nervous yet determined as I walked up to him, I didn’t knew what to tell in situations like those but what I managed to say was “I know that only you can do it for us”. Rajib da was equally perplexed when he replied me saying “It doesn’t matter who does it, all that matters is that the job must be done”. Hats off to that person because even then I couldn’t understand the level of determination and focus he had in store for us. He was sitting cuddled up thinking of nothing but about the victory, later I learned that he had to rush right after the match to his ailing mother. But back during the penalties he was in a different mood, he appeared more confident and more focused, though his work was cut out in the CSP’s final shot as it was hit wide away from the goal. A delighted Rajib da, and everyone present there and secretly praying for a bug hunter victory watched proudly. Once again the CSP supporters were out classed by our supporters in a rage.
Sandeep Kumar Khatri, I know him since he joined the testing services. We sit, eat, and gossip together but never knew how well he puts his feet to the ball neither did I realized that one day he is going to be a big name in the sporting circuit of cognizant. He was already chosen the best player of the tournament, he was featuring in the cognizant dream team, set to play in the corporate leagues for cognizant and had already scored the maximum number of goals in that edition. He was already carrying so much on his shoulders that this responsibility looked too small to care for. Miss was not an option any more as I was finding it difficult to decide which way to run once he finishes the shot. Should it be Rajib da or Sandeep but I guess whoever be it, both are equally responsible for such a huge victory. Sandeep used to wear a black AC Milan jersey under the bug hunter whites and so many times he had jokingly told me that how he wishes to open the whites to show it every time after he scores and how he forgets about the whole thing once he does. I was asking myself will he remember doing it this time. Also I was telling myself how apt it is to end the tournament by the goal of its highest scorer, and the most valuable player. Sandeep Khatri inspected the ball and the ground to finally find his mark, then he observed the goal from bar to bar carefully before looking at the keeper. I remember him saying later that the keeper was not standing in the center and he was more closer to the left bar, I realized how wonderfully details like these plays in the mind of the truly professionals. Sandeep placed the ball so cunningly that even a desperate dive couldn’t help the keeper to reach it.
Yes Sandeep remembered to display his AC Milan colors this time but just as he was about to take the whites off he found himself rolling on the ground under a heap of over ecstatic bug hunters.
No the AC Milan jersey never saw the light of the day; I guess it will have to wait till the next edition, as aptly said by the legendary Roy Keane “This title isn’t the sweetest – the next one always is.”
Anyone can guess what Suman Das had said or how Sumithra would recognize the achievement, what mattered most to us was the journey, the way we stick to our task, the way we took on the challenges, and the way we kept on winning not only the game but most
Importantly people’s heart. Champions don’t live in the field they live in the hearts of them who believes in what a champion can do. Finally picking up again from what Nil da wrote, he also added “To people who raise questions on our ability, this should be your response in true Cognizant spirit: As testing team, we ensure that you deliver quality products to our customers, we play soccer too…. And we are damn good at it.”
Chronology of Events
Beginning of April Bug Hunters started practicing in the GD ground.
Beginning of April Bug Hunters started looking for potential players.
Beginning of May Football Fiesta announced.
8th May The Mascot – “Driblee” gets unveiled.
30th May Draw of Lots.
10th June Football fiesta kicks off through Cendant vs GTO Phoenix.
13th June Bug Hunters defeated Goal Setters 4-0 in their opening match.
11th July Bug Hunters drew with Cendant 1-1.
17th July Bug Hunters defeated GTO Phoenix 5-0 to become the group champion.
22nd July Super Group Matches began through Bug Hunters vs Invaders. Bug Hunters defeated Invaders 2-0.
29th July Bug Hunters defeated ILOB 2-1, claiming a spot in the semis.
5th August Bug Hunters drew with CSP 1-1 to become the group champion.
14th August Bug Hunters defeated ACS Mellon 1-0 to reach the finals.
22nd August Bug Hunter lifted the trophy defeating CSP 3-1 in the penalties.
For the Records:Goals
vs Goal Setters Simanta Adhikary(2), Imon Banerjee.
vs Cendant Sandeep Kumar Khatri.
vs GTO Phoenix Sandeep Kumar Khatri(2), Simanta Adhikary, Nilanjan Saha.
vs Invaders Sandeep Kumar Khatri, Simanta Adhikary.
vs ILOB Sandeep Kumar Khatri, Sanchayan Paul.
vs CSP Sandeep Kumar Khatri.
vs ACS Mellon Sandeep Kumar Khatri.
vs CSP Simanta Adhikary, Priyankar Lala, Sandeep Kumar Khatri (all the 3 goals scored in penalties).
Sandeep Kumar Khatri : 7
Simanta Adhikary : 4
Imon Banerjee : 1
Nilanjan Saha : 1
Sanchayan Paul : 1
The sole yellow card was displayed to Pranab Sinha Roy against Cendant.
Highest Scorer (Sandeep Kumar Khatri, scored seven goals)
Player of the Tournament (Sandeep Kumar Khatri)
Popular team of the Tournament (121 votes out of 464)
Best Team of the Tournament (Fair Play)
Dream Team (Sandeep Kumar Khatri and Sourav Pal were among the members, the award for guessing the team was won by someone from testing.)
Predict the winner (Won by Kaustav Gupta of testing)