Prabir Mukherjee, former chief curator of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), died late on Tuesday. He was 86 and is survived by son Pranab and grandson Pranay. Mukherjee, who was in charge of the Eden Gardens pitch for close to 25 years till last October, was suffering from liver and age related problems.
Once known for his love for the maidan and especially the Eden, Mukherjee’s last wish apparently was that his body should not be taken to the stadium for officials and other people to pay their last respects.
This extreme step was taken due to the manner in which he parted ways with the CAB last year when Sourav Ganguly was the president-designate. Most CAB officials had openly blamed Mukherjee for not taking adequate measures to avoid a washout of the third T20 international between India and South Africa on October 8 last year.
Eventually replaced, Mukherjee didn’t set foot at Eden Gardens after that day.
“My contract expired in July. Nobody discussed that with me. I never worked for money. But yes I have told them (CAB officials) that I’m not coming back to Eden,” Mukherjee had told HT a day after the incident.
Many senior CAB officials, however, flocked to his home on Wednesday morning after hearing about his death. “He was the most senior curator among us. We all revered him and his knowledge. His death is a huge loss to our fraternity,” BCCI Ground & Pitches committee chairman Daljit Singh told HT from Ludhiana. .
Always known for sticking to his guns, Mukherjee came under the spotlight when he turned down MS Dhoni’s request for a turner during the Test series against England in 2012. England went on to defeat India by seven wickets on their way to a 2-1 series win. This was also the same Test where Mukherjee had shooed away cricketer-turned journalist Mike Atherton from taking a closer look of the pitch.
The following year, Mukherjee prevented Rohit Sharma from inspecting a pitch citing a rule that only captains and coaches are allowed to do that.
Once a fast bowler, Mukherjee was also a goalkeeper before a road accident forced him to retire. He started with Suburban Club in 1964 and then was elected the secretary of Bengal National Railways Club. During his association with the CAB, Mukherjee was manager of various Bengal and zonal teams and even joint-secretary from 1993-94 and 1996-97.
He was in charge of the pitch during the 1987 World Cup final, the ill-fated 1996 World Cup semi-final and even supervised pitch preparations during the mini World Cup in Dhaka in 1998.