The Maidan in central Kolkata has always been such a vibrant piece of history in the city’s sporting culture.
It houses more than 100 sports tents (clubs), and activities the year around transform the place into a sort of tourist attraction.
But the Maidan, the sports hub of Kolkata, is devoid of the hustle-bustle ahead of a cricket match.
The ticket touts are missing, the fans have dwindled significantly. Test match cricket is here, the Eden Gardens is buzzing with hectic last-minute sprucing, but the Maidan is deserted.
Once a protected area around Fort William, it has been for years an expanse of greenery and sporting activity that begins with dawn and ends with sunset.
The Town Club is a landmark tent, much like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, opposite the Eden. Town Club is not far from the cricket stadium, nestling amidst serene surroundings. The breeze from the Hooghly adds to the pleasant ambience at the club which has a rich past. It had an eminent member, Swami Vivekananda, who graced the club turf more than a century ago.
Swami Vivekananda had once remarked: “You’ll be nearer to God through football than through study of the Gita.”
There are pockets of football lovers, players and followers, in this sports crazy city, and an equal number of cricket centres. ‘Calcutta’, the city of joy, has an enviable sports culture and the Maidan stands a glorious testimony to it.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni summed it up nicely on Tuesday, “Kolkata has always been a place where people turn out and come on to the field. They love to watch stars play the game and score runs.
“Eden Gardens is known to give the right pitch with runs if you play the right shots. The outfield is really quick. There won’t be any shortage of fans.”
Dhoni was being too optimistic though. The sale of tickets for the India-England Test has been reportedly tepid and the turnout of fans to watch the practice sessions has been shockingly low.
The Maidan also has not witnessed the frenzy that once marked a cricket event at the Eden.
It is a huge departure from the days when a mounted police force, battling a cloud of dust, would busily keep the fans under control.
The cops and the horses are idle now because the Maidan is no longer the vibrant Maidan of yesteryear. In a sad reflection of the times it has fallen silent!