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Eden Gardens’ circle of life waits for final touch-up

PUBLISHED ON SEP 28, 2016 06:42 AM IST

KOLKATA: The best of times, and the worst — Eden Gardens has been witness to all. So when the hour has come to host India’s 250th Test at home, there is an undeniable feeling of déjà vu. Will it allow India scale heights of greatness? Or is it going be an unwilling witness to doubts cast over India’s home supremacy?

Despite their heavy loss, New Zealand weren’t pushovers. This being the first time Eden is hosting aTest in September, not many can predict whether 15 sessions will be played. Even if it’s a draw, the result could be of significance for India. It would mean India will be unbeaten at home for 13 Tests in a row, the longest since February 15, 1980, when England beat India by 10 wickets to snap an incredible 20-match unbeaten streak.

The record started with a 140-run win against England Bangalore on January 28,1977 and ended with a thrilling draw against Pakistan on February 3, 1980 in Kolkata. Since then, India have twice remained unbeaten for 12 Test sat home but 13 always proved unlucky. One more unbeaten Test thus, can’t come at a more fitting venue than the Eden.

A win adds perspective to India’s journey at home. It was at the Eden four years back that India slumped to a second consecutive defeat to England and eventually lost the series 1-2. Adding to the embarrassment was the ruse that the pitch es didn’t aid India enough. Unnecessary brouhaha brewed before the Test when MS Dhoni asked for a turner but chief ground curator Prabir Mukherjee refused to accede. The pitch turned, only in England’s favour.

It was also at Eden three years ago that India were forced to start thinking about a new No 4 batsman after over two decades. In Sachin Tendulkar’s penultimate Test debuted Rohit Sharma who scored a hundred in front of his mentor. Since then, Rohit has owned Eden in shorter formats but is still found short of meeting expectations in Tests. India arrive in Kolkata to play their sixth Test after Tendulkar’s retirement.

Between then and now, the scene of a Test at Eden has changed drastically. Incharge of the team is a more aggressive captain in Virat Kohli who doesn’t mind changing a winning combination. Ensuring the smooth running of this Test is former captain Sourav Ganguly who has already hit a few sixes in his brief innings as administrator.

Eden, in fact wasn’t a favourite turf of India till Ganguly changed that on March 15, 2001. In 29 Tests before that, the visitors had won eight, India five and the rest were drawn. Since 2001, India have won six, drawn two and lost just one. But that one loss summed up the denouement of India at home. Myths were broken, the record counter was reset and India had to begin from scratch.

On Tuesday, they return a stronger team to a venue that has given them a lot of joy but also, more significantly, sometimes questioned their will.

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