Sunday, February 27, 2011

All (read No) roads lead to ‘The Eden Gardens’ …

* This post assumes as prerequisite, previous knowledge of two key facts – 1. The ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 is underway, and is being jointly hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh , 2. The India vs England match slated for today at Eden Gardens was hijacked away to Bangalore.

Venue: The Eden Gardens, Calcutta; Date: February 27, 2011, Time: 1430 hrs. The stage was set. The mighty English vs the invincible Indians. To be or not to be. ICC inspectors prevailed and the CAB slackers got what they deserved. The cricket loving citizens of the city were denied their chance to view a grimly fought contest.Calcutta’s loss was Bangalore’s gain. Lot has been written about this already. All of you out there, who are following the world cup probably know all about it. This post cannot highlight anything earth-shatteringly new. We know Jagmohan Dalmiya (here on after, referred to as JD), the CAB big cheese, the ex-ICC boss has been taken to the cleaners. And at the end of the day has to take any and all responsibility for this fiasco. There has been some noise in the power-filled corridors of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), that ICC president Sharad Pawar had this with in his power to reverse the decision and let Calcutta host the match. Be that as it may, we cannot deny that too much work was not done and ICC inspectors, were judicious enough not to take a chance with a prime time world cup match at stake ! JD cried foul for a few days to come, continuing to point out that This is not cricket ! . He asks the question how other stadia (like Premdasa Stadium in Colombo, Sri Lanka) were allowed to extend their deadline for showing visible signs of progress. JD, if I may please, while your questions may be valid. But haven’t you heard two wrongs don’t make a right. Let us for a moment say pretend that your suspicion IS true and this is all political vendetta. Then if I may ask you – why did you give them a chance ? You could have got the job done, before time or at least within time and that would have been a slap on the face of the people, who you say have conspired against the Eden Gardens.

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It was indeed a sad day in the history of Eden Gardens. It wore a sad and dreary look on a Sunday. Not only were the emotions of the cricket loving natives hurt, Calcutta lost a day, which could have boosted local economy. And the way it works is, even though the match is just a one day affair, businesses both small and big look forward to it with great anticipation. 

I am a die hard cricket fan myself and left marauded, when I first heard the news. Once the reality sank in, my head hung in shame. I was angry, disappointed, and distraught. So today when the day finally came, I decided to drive down to the erstwhile venue of today’s match. A lone beverage stand caught my attention, across the new facade of the B.C. Roy Club House.

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A friend, YS accompanied me on this fact-finding, soul searching mission. We walked up to the beverage stand owner (not  shown in the picture above), to get his take on this fiasco !

So that’s it. You just heard Noor Mohammed talk about his loss and his legacy. JD, even though your office is just across the street, I hope his words reach you.

Next on, we walked across the street to the club house entrance and the area was cordoned off by the security guards who were circling to prevent any trespassers. Some people by then had generally gathered in the area, seeing us talking to the beverage stand owners across the street. I saw another person with a fancy camera dangling around his neck, he was able to walk inside the entrance, and was clicking pictures. Just about then a light bulb lit up in my head. I nonchalantly walked up to one of the security bosses and asked for his permission to take an inside tour. He rejected my plea with a terse reply – * হবে না, পার-মিশেন নেই * (You can’t go in, you are not allowed to).

I have not learnt to go down without putting up a fight. Some times sheer cockiness can get you ahead in life. The following conversation ensued -

(SG = Security Guard)

Me - তা হলে ওরা কি করে গেল ? (How come those people got in, I asked ? Pointing to at least one other person, who was just 100 meters inside the gate, taking a few pictures)

SG - ওরা প্রেস (They are from the press !)

Me - আমরা ও প্রেস (We are from the press too !), I said taking out and flashing my newly printed blog business cards. As if it were my passport, and the security guard was the immigration officer.

Guess what, that worked ! The guard I was talking to, turned back and talked back in hushed tones to the others on duty. A brief impromptu meeting took place and then we were welcome with a change of guard and tone.

SG - আশুন, আশুন ! (Please come in, please come in). He said pointing to YS and myself.

By now a few people had gathered around the entrance gate, hoping to gatecrash into the party, just like we did. But the security guard had clearly signaled a safe passage to just the two of us !

Anyhow, mission accomplished. We walked into and strode up the stair cases into the galleries. Just as we were walking into the stands, two fair skinned gentleman were walking out. It took no time to realize they were tourists, possibly English cricket fans. And so they were. What followed was a brief interview. Once again, hear me in conversation with Chris and Bobby, with me dominating the conversation, us usual :)

Oh yes, btw – that accent is phony :).

I am sure there were many more like Chris and Bobby, who travelled all the way to Calcutta, to be able to watch the match at Eden Gardens ! What can I say ? I remain speechless.

Below are some of the pictures, we took of the empty stadium and once again rued not being able to host the India vs England match today. I sat down on of the many empty seats and closed my eye for a moment and let my mind wander. The empty stadium was drowned in an eerie silence but I heard the massive crowd cheering Team India at the glorious Eden Gardens. I pinched myself to ensure this was real. It wasn’t ! 

By the time this post goes to the press, the match has ended in a tie. It was a last ball thriller, testing even those fans with nerves of steel. Rest is history. Just like Team India, being touted as the favorites to lift the cup, really need to take a long hard look at their bowling attack (for batting first and nearly not being able to defend a score of 340 !). CAB  and JD need to take a long hard look at what brought about this shame to the Eden Gardens. Although, I think CAB has become oligarchic by nature, and until that changes, there is little hope. However, I still hope a blog post is mightier than the sword. Heads should roll, some should be chopped but we need to pick up the sticks and move on !

Enjoy the pictures ! 

Cheers,

- NKOB !

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6 comments:

  1. hmmm... look like my first comment may not have made it. Just wanted to say that this is a shameful thing to have happened to such a historical venue. Good write up and interviews!

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  2. The scene - empty stand with lone spectator tragically depicts the desire and the MISS for the Kolkatans... Good Luck Next Time!! The newly dressed Eden looks more charming with or without cricket:)

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  3. @Maitra's Life Quest - Absolutely. A sad miss. But the die hard fan in me, isn't dead, so I am going to be there on the March 15 to witness Ireland and South Africa, tough it out at the Garden of Eden :)

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  4. Hi...great post. This was waiting to happen. things hv been bad at Edens for quite some time. If only CAB had put in an iota of the effort that went in after the rejection (including buddho babu calling sharad pawar)....

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  5. Hey Vinny ! Was in Eden Gardens with my son and nephew today to watch the match between the Proteas and the Irish !took the kids for them to feel the experience Of the Garden of Eden ! Eden Gardens is the Mecca of Cricket and there is no doubt about it....JD and party has denied the ardent fans of Kolkata a match which would have been won if it had been played here. I was referring to ENG VS IND match. I can say both the kids as well as spectators from both South Africa and Ireland Soaked in the energy and enthusiam of the fans and more so The Garden of Eden inspires the energy for sure.As the sun set and the floodlights came on , the light breeze from River Hooghly seem to soothe one's anger ! We missed out !

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