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At Eden, Test cricket lives

Still people come in thousands, sit on concrete benches, sip water from plastic pouches because they care enough about Tests. A college student even said: "I like Tests more than T20s because T20s get over so fast." Nikhilesh Bhattacharya reports.

cricket Updated: Feb 16, 2010 01:38 IST
Nikhilesh Bhattacharya

After completing 150 on Monday, Virender Sehwag first raised his bat to the thousands of spectators in the galleries opposite the clubhouse before turning around to acknowledge the cheers of his teammates in the dressing room.

It was a nice gesture because in the Eden Gardens under reconstruction for next year's World Cup, most of the spectators sit in the galleries on the High Court end of the ground. Sehwag was acknowledging their involvement. These days, many players wave towards the dressing room balcony only.

Spectators at Eden break into applause often, sometimes just because they love to hear themselves. "They do a Mexican wave and then clap for themselves," said Roy Abraham from Mumbai, who has come to Kolkata just to watch this Test and was seen raising his arms every time the wave came to his part of the stand.

But the crowd also appreciates good cricket when they see it, be it Virender Sehwag's forward defence right after getting to century or the umpire calling wide every time Paul Harris bowled down the leg side. The opposition, too, got their share of the applause, as Morne Morkel did after diving at fine-leg to cut off a four.

Even people outside were obviously keeping one eye on the cricket. Hundreds started streaming in after lunch to see Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar bat together.

There may have still been empty seats in a stadium that is only at half its capacity. But it was a weekday and getting a ticket to a covered part of Eden is not the easiest thing to do.

"We were ready to buy tickets but they said we'd have to sit in one of those open stands where we'd have been roasted in the sun," said Sue from England, who goes around India watching domestic and international matches with husband Ian. They finally got complimentary tickets from a Cricket Association of Bengal official.

Unaware of CAB's ways, Roy tried to buy a ticket over the internet and naturally drew a blank. "The match was not even listed. Thankfully my sister's colleague's father is a CAB member, so…"

Having bridged the three-degrees of separation between you and the ticket, more daunting things wait at the stadium. On both Sunday and Monday, nearly an hour before play, a man walking with a stick could be seen climbing up the flights of stairs to the upper tiers of Block F1. There are no ramps anywhere and tickets cannot be transferred to the lower tiers even if you have a problem climbing stairs.

Still people come in thousands, sit on concrete benches, sip water from plastic pouches because they care enough about Tests. A college student even said: "I like Tests more than T20s because T20s get over so fast."

Test cricket may not thrive everywhere, at Eden it lives.