Laxmipathy Balaji is an out-and-out Chennai boy. From having grown up watching first-day- first-shows of Rajinikanth movies to swearing by traditional Tamil meals served on a plantain leaf, Balaji has always worn his city's pride on his sleeve. And for the first three editions of the Indian Premier League, Balaji donned the Super Kings' canary jersey too with great passion.
Then came the 2011 IPL auction, engineering a major shake-up in the line-ups of the various franchises. And as the gavel came down on Balaji's name, with the buying price reading $500,000, he was suddenly no longer a part of his beloved Chennai outfit. Now he was a Knight Rider. While the opportunity to represent the most glamorous of franchises was indeed alluring, the thought of shifting base to alien environs of Kolkata was a daunting one, even if only for two months. Balaji had after all grown up listening to horror tales about the eastern metropolitan's traffic, the suffocating crowds, and of course the limited, if not negligible, options for South Indian food.
During his first season with KKR in 2011, Balaji's diffidence ensured he spent his non match-days within his hotel room. The following season, though, things changed completely. By now, he had warmed up to Kolkata's fervent yet earnest fans. The trams no longer seemed outlandish and the nights were spent relishing the many cuisines that Park Street's got to offer. He's also become a football fan these days. Most importantly, Balaji had discovered mishti doi among other Bengali sweets.
"I know I have to look after my diet. But I sneak in a couple at times. They are too tempting," he says. While Kolkata had found a way through to Balaji's heart via his sweet-tooth, others in the KKR camp have warmed up to their adopted home in their own way.