Off-track Eden Gardens caught between rain and Durga Puja
Eden Gardens has a history of producing sporting tracks. Uneven bounce isn’t an anomaly on Indian pitches but it shouldn’t stretch to an extent that it surprises batsmen.cricket Updated: Oct 03, 2016 22:21 IST
If not for the ball that scuttled him, Virat Kohli looked good to get more than a fifty. Had it not been for the delivery that shot up and struck Shikhar Dhawan’s thumb, maybe he could have concentrated more on saving his career than grimace in pain.
Wriddhiman Saha, who has played at Eden Gardens for almost 10 years now, had to take evasive action against a ball that suddenly reared from a crack to almost take out his head. He wasn’t spared in the second innings too.
Yet the India captain described the Eden Gardens surface as ‘a brilliant Test wicket’. “It was a lovely Test match, a brilliant Test wicket. Apart from the variable bounce here and there, it will get better and better,” said Kohli on TV moments after winning the series with an unassailable 2-0 lead.
His counterpart Ross Taylor too was far from critical. “To be honest, we thought the pitch would be different. A good cricket wicket, it’s just been re-laid and is going to get better and better,” he said. Having won the Test, Kohli would have little reason to complain. And cricketers generally refrain from criticising the pitch for it might be viewed as an excuse for non-performance.
But something had gone wrong with this pitch. Eden Gardens has a history of producing sporting tracks. Uneven bounce isn’t an anomaly on Indian pitches but it shouldn’t stretch to an extent that it surprises batsmen.
Making scapegoats out of ground staff and curators is the norm in these situations but this isn’t one of those open-and-shut cases. When the schedule of this series was announced on June 28, Eden Gardens was allotted the third Test starting on October 8 while Indore was supposed to host this Test. That was until it dawned on the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) that the dates clashed with the Durga Puja. Police protection couldn’t be assured during that period.
The CAB couldn’t have pulled out as that would have brought it disrepute. So it agreed to host the second Test. The Eden Gardens has never hosted a September Test in its 83-year Test history because of the monsoon. For that reason, never has Kolkata been allotted a Champions League T20 match in September and all ties had to be shifted to Bengaluru or Hyderabad. Pitch preparation starts only in the first week of October.
So, basically the Eden had to do the impossible. The weather, as expected, didn’t help. There was hardly adequate sun and the constant threat of rain meant the pitch was under covers even 48 hours before this Test began. The ingredients of making a good pitch were never at hand.