As Sabyasachi ‘Antidote’ Bose wields the big green gun for Optic India against the likes of GOSU and MVP.PK, people cheer the youngster from Kolkata on. The rise of the stature of Kolkata within the Indian Counter-Strike Scene has not just been surprising or meteoric, but long overdue.
Rolling back the days to 1.6 and there was hardly any representation from Kolkata at National events. Aim2Game tried to hard to put Kolkata on the Counter-Strike map in India and were the most successful team from the region, especially at National events.
There were others who tried though. Negative Evolution and Foulplay dominated the scene at different junctures as well. But, they failed to have the same level of success at the National level as Aim2Game.
The team was famous for their execute-heavy style, something that was rare within the Indian scene at that point. They made their mark and earned praise from other top teams for their calculated plays and extended playbook. Their highest point came at the WCG 2012, where they placed second, the highest of any team from the region.
Their fourth place at ESWC 2011 though, was much more impressive as they pulled off a brilliant lower bracket run at the event before falling at the final hurdle that saw them miss out on the Bronze.
Back then though, Kolkata wasn’t the shining light of Eastern Indian Counter Strike. Orissa and North East had teams that not only competed regularly at the National level but recorded mild success at the said events as well.
The likes of Elements, Rogues and xM could all be chalked down as more prominent within the Indian Counter-Strike scene.
Fast forward to the introduction of Global Offensive, JMD took everyone by storm with their impressive performances at top online events. There was also a period where a few of the players were alleged to have used unfair means to win. But, the stars were soon removed from the roster.
Despite the early success that JMD enjoyed, there was little representation from Kolkata at LAN events. That soon changed though. Invisible Wings decided to invest into the roster and that immediately propelled the stars to limelight, one of them being Antidote himself.
JMD and Goutfits both produced iterations that competed at LAN Events not just locally but at the National level. Arindam ‘fRoD’ Bose managed JMD and managed to produce different iterations of the roster, with large success.
It is worth noting that JMD was the first and is still the only organization from within Kolkata to offer a fixed salary and receive sponsorship from brands like Ttesports.
The two teams showed players from Kolkata can more than match up to the best in business in India. And soon began the inculcation of Kolkata-based players into top rosters.
Antidote is undoubtedly the most prominent name to emerge from the region. The star joined MxB, which reformed into Dare 2 Dream, and grew in stature under the leadership of Bhavin ‘HellRanger’ Kotwani. He did return to the Kolkata CS scene for a brief period but soon found himself representing Eternal Esports.
The lineup then had to change sponsors and came to be called Team Malhar. Antidote was joined by Gurtej ‘Proud’ Singh in the lineup. Proud is still a part of the roster while Antidote has moved on to Optic India.
Antidote’s selection in Optic India is perhaps the best reflection of the growth of Kolkata within the Counter-Strike scene. But, he was not alone in the shortlist. Dipayan ‘MaChO’ Das and Bodhisattwa ‘The Guru’ Panday also featured on the list but chose not to go for the tryouts.
Both the players are a part of the SRA roster that placed 3rd at the ZOWIE eXTREMESLAND Regional LAN Finals. Slaughter Rage Army are dominant within the local scene, regularly scoring victories over not just teams from Kolkata but Orissa and North East as well.
The Kolkata-based team has even managed to qualify for the ESL INDIA Fall Season Finals, finishing in the top four of the Online Phase and placed second at the LAN Finals in Hyderabad.
Sagnik ‘hellfightR’ Roy represented Ate Gaming and is now a part of Team Malhar. While Sunny ‘DeathMaker’ Das hails from the North East, he received success within the Global Offensive scene after joining JMD in Kolkata.
Now, the hybrid star represents Entity, arguably Top 2 within the Indian Counter Strike scene, and recently lapped up his first BIG trophy under the Entity banner, winning the Dew Arena Lan Finals over 2ez gaming.
Let us talk about pure rosters from Kolkata. JMD and Goutfits were both successful to a certain degree. But, SRA’s 3rd place at the ZOWIE eXTREMESLAND Regional LAN Finals was the first time Kolkata was put on a map as a serious threat within the Indian Counter Strike scene.
They managed to repeat it at the ESL INDIA Fall Season LAN Finale in Hyderabad by taking down Brutality again, this time in straight maps. SRA may have finished second but losing to an Optic India side that look set to become a South East Asian powerhouse is nothing to be sad about.
As Bodhisattwa ‘The Guru’ Panday said in his interview, SRA had nothing to lose and their first consecutive top four placings at National LAN events is something to build upon. The next step is to find financial support, especially with four of the five members not really equipped with the best of financial conditions.
Their victories have taken some experts by surprise. But, what is uplifting is the playstyle with which the wins have come. It resembles just how much Kolkata has grown in terms of competing with other top regions.
SRA boast of a very contact-heavy playing style, often resorting to quick rushes while relying mostly on aim duels to gain an advantage on the server. This is a stark contrast to the execute-heavy style mastered by Aim2Game in CS 1.6.
While you can chalk down the change in playing style to many reasons, one of them is the fact that players from Kolkata are now confident of matching up to other top players in terms of raw firepower, mostly thanks to exposure.
When it comes to exposure, a major portion of credit is due to Sostronk. The Bengaluru-based startup equipped gamers with the ability to play regular PUGs, thus helping in the overall improvement of the Indian scene, not just Kolkata.
It is sad to see Kolkata still being ignored in a few Qualifiers. But, Kolkata is not scared anymore. They have the skill. The support for their unabashed brand of Counter-Strike is also in an upward trajectory. Kolkata has established itself within the Indian Counter Strike ecosystem.
And I am willing to bet, it is here to stay and grow with each passing season.
Picture by ESL India