There was a sense of déjà vu as Eden Gardens hosted a galaxy of former stars in commemorating 25 years of One-Day Internationals at the venue between cricket’s most intense rivals — India and Pakistan. The function, which was held during the innings break, provided relief to taut nerves as the present generation players battled it out for sub-continental supremacy.
Show of camaraderie
The once fierce rivals mingled jovially and joined one another in a fine show of camaraderie as the host — Cricket Association of Bengal — sought to erase the divide that has marked the two countries’ relationship.
There was no better way to memorialise the occasion as the journey of the shortened format of the game started with an India-Pakistan encounter on February 18, 1987.
The script wrought a rare communion as one of the finest spinners of the country Bishan Singh Bedi joined one of the finest batsmen of Pakistan Mushtaq Mohammad in completing a lap of honour on an open jeep. The spectators were on their feet cheering the star parade.
The procession that followed was strung in an interesting order which had Ajit Wadekar teaming up with Gundappa Viswanath while Pakistani batsman Sadiq Mohammad joined compatriot Imtiaz Ahmed in the next carriage. Intikhab Alam, one of the most notable figures in Pakistan cricket, joined Dilip Vengsarkar who, like Alam, enriched Indian cricket in multiple roles.
Next in the series was the voluble Navjot Singh Sidhu and Anil Kumble — one of the most reserved characters of Indian cricket.
The massive Eden Gardens Stadium reverberated with celebratory roars each time the name of a player was announced by the master of ceremonies — former India player Arun Lal. Next came the Indian chairman of selectors Sandip Patil accompanied by Rameez Raja, who has many good memories associated with the venue.
In the last of the first batch of six jeeps came two of India’s most entertaining cricketers — Krishnamachari Srikkanth and V.V.S. Laxman.
Applause for Laxman
The loudest applause was reserved for Laxman though, referred to as one of ‘Eden’s most loved sons’. The series-turning 281 that Laxman scored in a Test against Australia in 2001 is perched high in the lore of cricketing achievements.
The second batch of cricketers included two of the most celebrated contemporaries of Indian cricket — former captains Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev. Next to arrive was the pair of Ravi Shastri and Wasim Akram, while Sourav Ganguly, the “golden son of Bengal”, ended the procession riding alone in the last carriage.
All 19 players present on the occasion were each given a silver salver, a shawl, a commemorative tie and a cheque for Rs. 1 lakh, by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Zaka Ashraf was also felicitated by CAB president Jagmohan Dalmiya on the occasion.