A couple of years ago, Sachin Tendulkar was asked to name his favourite place in Kolkata. He described a moment.
Tendulkar talked about walking out of the dressing room at Eden Gardens and going out to bat to the applause of fans. “I wish I could capture the moment with my camera and also record the noise,” he said.
He is not alone. Cricketers and fans across cricket-playing countries know about the stadium that can accommodate 1,00,000 fans (though, in truth, the number was closer to 85,000 before the stadium was renovated and its capacity came down to around 63,000).
Indian cricketers have always loved the Eden crowd. Harbhajan Singh made a special mention of the support he got from the crowd after spinning India to an innings win against South Africa at the most recent Test played at Eden Gardens, in February 2010.
Harbhajan is currently out of the India team, but Tendulkar will look to score his 100th international hundred during the second Test against the West Indies starting at the Eden on Monday. The only surprise: ticket sales have been sluggish.
Season tickets, which are valid for all five days of the Test, have been priced at Rs500, Rs1000 and Rs1500. On Thursday, the first day of sale, a total of 98 tickets were sold. On Friday, the total number increased to 226.
“We expect greater demand for daily tickets once the match starts,” said Biswarup Dey, the joint-secretary of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB).
It was supposed to be a busy winter for Eden Gardens, which was denied the right to host the high-profile India-England World Cup match earlier this year after missing the deadline for completing renovation. Things have not gone according to plan since then either.
The Champions League T20 matches, scheduled for late September, had to be shifted because of a late monsoon. The ODI against England was played on Diwali-eve in a stadium that was not even half full. The T20 against England that followed could not fill the stands either.
The Test will be the last international match to be played at the Eden this winter.
“There are a number of reasons for fans staying away from the Test,” said former national selector Sambaran Banerjee.
“There has been too much cricket and this is not the West Indies of the 1970s and 80s. And remember, the match will be played over five weekdays.”
However, things may change if Tendulkar nears the mark. “Expect a surge in sale of daily tickets if that happens,” Banerjee said.