Justice by default has suddenly enlivened the corridors of the Dr BC Roy Clubhouse. The canteen cook is keen on dumping the good old chicken curry-rice combination for mutton biryani-chicken chaap. The person appointed local manager of Pakistan is suddenly in demand. Requests for tickets are mounting and the creases on the local cops’ foreheads are deepening.
Eden Gardens is back and how!
Not since the 1987 World Cup, when it had hosted the final, has the Eden Gardens got this number of high-voltage games --- a World Cup final and now, an India-Pakistan match. The celebratory mood in all the rooms of the clubhouse ranged from sober to bordering hysterical within minutes of the official announcement.
Nobody had forgotten the embarrassment of forfeiting the India-England tie to Bangalore in the 2011 World Cup after the ICC, then headed by Sharad Pawar, deemed the renovation of the stadium as incomplete. Justice delayed, in this case, hasn’t been justice denied.
Eden getting the match, though, wasn’t completely by design. The BCCI had always kept Bangalore and Kolkata as back-up venues due to broadcast and logistical reasons. Pakistan, on the other hand, preferred Mohali due to the proximity to the border.
The clinching factor for Kolkata, however, was ‘hosting an India match at an ICC event’. This time, too, it had lobbied for an India match but had to settle for the final. So when the opportunity came, Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) jumped at it on Monday night, writing to the BCCI why it should be given an India match after being denied the same for so long.
Leading the negotiation of course was CAB president Sourav Ganguly, who in 2011 had run from pillar to post along with Jagmohan Dalmiya trying to prevent the ICC from shifting the England-India match.
On Wednesday, Ganguly was gracious in ‘victory’. “I feel for Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association and Dharamsala. I sympathise with Anurag Thakur and people of Himachal for what has happened. It must be a sad moment for them for no fault of theirs. But I’m happy at the same time,” he said at a hurriedly convened press conference at the Eden Gardens.
Any other stadium would have been overjoyed to host the India-Pakistan match but it wouldn’t have probably got the same hype as Kolkata. What clinched the deal for Kolkata? “Eden Gardens, what else? That’s the only criterion. It’s historic,” said Ganguly.
The former India captain expectedly stayed humble but undeniable is the weight his name carries within the BCCI which he is tipped to head in the future. Groundwork for that starts at the backyard, at the Eden Gardens.
The sheer size, history and some of the finest cricket played in Kolkata bestows upon Eden that unquestionable aura but somehow Ganguly’s patronage as CAB president could now propel the stadium to a more modern and spectator friendly arena.
For Ganguly, that transformation could be the real challenge. He has quietly done the homework, though.
For almost a month last year, Ganguly oversaw the operation of ‘boring’ (drilling holes in the ground to take out the soil and fill it with sand) so that the embarrassment of a washout after the smallest drizzle is avoided. New covers are in place. And also a permanent giant screen. Even the pitch, Ganguly assures, would be flat and full of runs.
From giving the Eden Gardens a facelift to bringing the mother of all clashes to the venue, Ganguly the administrator has done everything within six months of becoming CAB president. But now begins a nervous wait to see whether it all comes together.