As Cricket Association of Bengal embraced the fulfilment of 80 years of Test cricket at the Eden Gardens it brought in a cross-current of emotions.
Revered as one of the most distinguished Test venues of the world, the first day of the third Test at the Ranji Stadium (the actual name of the venue) did not justify the momentous occasion as the attendance remained low.
Patches of empty seats may not have given the confidence to two of the oldest surviving captains of India and England — Nari Contractor and Ted Dexter — when they were taken round the boundary in a golf cart for a special ‘lap of honour’ accorded by the CAB. For some old timers it was a moment to reflect back in time.
Rabi Mitra’s thoughts sailed beyond the resplendent advertisement boards that lined the boundary and stands of the Eden Gardens as he tried to recapture the charm of a Test match of the yore. “It is quite evident that the classical form of cricket is losing its appeal. There are strong currents of economic and social changes that may have had its effect on the spectator turnout,” says Mitra, who is one of the senior members of the ‘trustee board’ of the Cricket Association of Bengal.
“I first came to see a match between India and West Indies in 1948, when I was a studying in class eight. I remember the great West Indian batsmen like (Clyde) Walcott and (Everton) Weekes who did well in the match,” the 79-year-old veteran administrator reminisced.
“I also remember the wooden stands and the pine trees lining the stadium. It was the old British structure and looked very beautiful in its classical layout. The huge concrete galleries have killed that view but one cannot ignore the economic reason behind their erection,” Mitra shared his 64-year association with the venue.
The fame of the Eden Gardens has also brought in 65-year-old Ray Causer from Wexford in Ireland.
“I have been to places like Chennai and Bangalore in my trips to India before. But coming to the Eden Gardens gives me a different feeling,” Causer said. “The stadium is vast and it would definitely be a great feeling if all the seats are full,” he observed.
“I have heard so much about the charm of watching cricket at the Eden Gardens. It feels really great to come and watch cricket here as the ambience is quite electrifying,” says 25-year-old Jeet Gujral who has come all the way from Leicester City in England to support India.
Even as the Eden Gardens embraces modernisation, it has not lost contact with the old charm through the presence of veteran cricket watchers like Mitra and Causer.