Within four-and-a-half hours of Day 1 in Kolkata, Sachin Tendulkar had busted his chance of completing his ton of tons. But for the 75 minutes he was in the middle, it did look like the Eden would be the venue for a monumental landmark.
This cricket cathedral has a history of being a fanatic 12th man for India.
Monday, however, was a different story with empty stands staring back at the batsmen. “It’s really sad. But this has been a trend everywhere, not just Kolkata,” said Dravid when asked how different this century was compared to his previous three here.
Still finding voice
Unofficial figures put daily ticket sales at just over 1000 on the first day. The Cricket Association of Bengal quoted police estimates to say a crowd of around 22,000 had turned up, one-third of what the stadium holds. Even though that seemed highly inflated it wouldn’t have seemed possible but for Tendulkar.
What could have easily been a turnout of around 5,000 in the morning steadily increased once news of Virender Sehwag’s dismissal spread to the adjacent business district. By the time Gautam Gambhir gifted his wicket, the Eden, though not even close to its capacity, was ready to welcome the little master.
Fidel Edwards jacked up his speed to well above the 140 km/hr mark and even tested Tendulkar with the short stuff. Only to turn around and find a hostile reaction from the club house end --- fans jumping from their seats, furious that Edwards had tried to come between India’s favourite son and his hundredth century. It wasn’t quite a throwback to the old days, of a time Dravid described as electric, far from it actually but for a minute or two the Eden seemed to have come alive.
A perfect front-foot cover drive off Kemar Roach had them wanting more from Tendulkar. He obliged, taking apart Devendra Bishoo in his next two overs. In just under 30 minutes, some seats were being taken. Bishoo came back through a huge leg-before appeal. It was turned down and the fans got their breath back.
But only just. The reaction to Tendulkar’s dismissal was sombre, pin-drop silence in its most literal form. “For him to cope with so much expectations itself is remarkable,” West Indies coach Otis Gibson said later.
And one of the instant effects of Tendulkar’s dismissal could be seen in the stands. Though Dravid and Laxman were still at the crease, many spectators were seen leaving the stadium. Dravid said: “I remember in the 90s when we used to have 80,000-100,000 people at Eden Gardens. There was a magic here. It’s still there…but it’s sad.”