At 40 Eden Gardens just getting started
28th September 2016
There is this old adage "Life begins at 40". When India and New Zealand walk out to toss at this hallowed ground, Test matches in this stadium will turn 40. Life is just getting started at Eden Gardens, with more good things to come. But it will be nice to take a quick look at how we arrived at this magic number.
The first Test match India played in Eden Gardens was against D R Jardine's England with a young C K Naidu leading the Indian side. The match was drawn, but it set the tone for a winter carnival in Calcutta. Test cricket became synonymous with Christmas, New Year, plum cakes and a learned crowd that appreciated the game like none in the world. Today we find it difficult to fill the stands, but in those days there wasn't enough space at Eden Gardens. People thronged to the ground, queued up outside the stadium waiting for a chance to enter, squat around the ground in hundreds with transistor glued to their ears.
My grandfather told me that in the old ground, people would get on the terrace of All India Radio to watch a match. Every cheer inside the stadium was responded with echoes from outside. Every hush and despair resonated on the streets around the ground. Such was the magnetic charm of Test matches in Eden Gardens.
During the course of the 40 test matches, Eden Gardens has matured from being three sides open, to becoming one of the best stadiums in the world with world class facilities. The pitches have also changed direction to the High Court end. The wickets have become a little more predictable than what it was earlier. But the emotions have remained the same. And so has the charm.
During this time we have played some memorable matches also. The first match that yielded result was the one against Australia, when the visiting team led by Johnson defeated Umrigar's India by 94 runs. The next match that comes back to memory in a flash is the India Pakistan match in 1960/61. If for nothing it has a historical significance. This was the first time the two countries were playing in Eden after Independence. F Mahmood led the visitors against the Indian team led by Nari Contractor. The match was drawn, but Eden was packed to the rafters that day and according to the witnesses the crowd spilled over till the Monument.
India won at Eden Gardens for the first time in December 1961, when they defeated E R Dexter's England by 187 runs. India, led by the redoubtable N Contractor, piled up 380 in first innings with half centuries from the Nawab of Pataudi and Chandu Borde. This set up the tone of the match. England scored 212 and 233 in two innings, but fine bowling from Durani, Borde and Umrigar meant a second innings effort from the home side of 252 would be enough to seal a victory. Calcutta witnessed extended Christmas that year and new year had more spring on its steps.
Four more matches sum up the variety that has spiced Eden's journey. South Africa returned to world cricket after international sanctions and in the November of 1996 firmly established themselves as a cricketing nation here with a victory by over 300 runs that was both audacious, as it was prodigious of the bag of talent they brought. They also gave pace attack a new grammar when they unleashed the White Lightning Alan Donald and a Zulu warrior Lance Klusenar who left the Indian batting in tatters. Only Md Azharuddin's strokeful century were the nuggets the Indian team brought home.
The next three matches marked India's highs and low at Eden. Sandwiched between two famous victories against Australia, who called India the final frontier, was the loss to Pakistan in the Asian Test Championship that saw the rise of Shoaib Akhtar. But that is the fun of Test cricket, its unpredictability, its capacity to surprise and hold in awe. Sourav Ganguly's all round performace was the cornerstone of success of the win against the Kangaroos in 1998, while V V S Laxman and R Dravid's epoch making innings aided by Harbhajan's guile left the world champions out of gas in 2001.
As India celebrate the 501st Test match overall and 250th Test on Indian soil, pause a bit as Eden turns a leaf.
LIST OF MATCHES AT EDEN GARDENS
- 5th Jan 1934 Marylebone Cricket Club in India and Ceylon 1933/34 2nd Test India v England Draw
- 31st Dec 1948 West Indies in India, Pakistan and Ceylon 1948/49 3rd Test India v West Indies Draw
- 30th Dec 1951 Marylebone Cricket Club in India, Pakistan and Ceylon 1951/52 3rd Test India v England Draw
- 12th Dec 1952 Pakistan in India, East Pakistan and Burma 1952/53 5th Test India v Pakistan Draw
- 28th Dec 1955 New Zealand in India and Pakistan 1955/56 4th Test India v New Zealand Draw
- 2nd Nov 1956 Australia in India and Pakistan 1956/57 3rd Test India v Australia Aus won
- 31st Dec 1958 West Indies in India and Pakistan 1958/59 3rd Test India v West Indies WI won
- 23rd Jan 1960 Australia in India and Pakistan 1959/60 5th Test India v Australia Drawn
- 30th Dec 1960 Pakistan in India 1960/61 3rd Test India v Pakistan Drawn
- 30th Dec 1961 Marylebone Cricket Club in India, Pakistan and Ceylon 1961/62 4th Test India v England Ind Won
- 29th Jan 1964 Marylebone Cricket Club in India 1963/64 3rd Test India v England Drawn
- 17th Oct 1964 Australia in India and Pakistan 1964/65 3rd Test India v Australia Drawn
- 5th Mar 1965 New Zealand in India and Pakistan 1964/65 2nd Test India v New Zealand Drawn
- 31st Dec 1966 West Indies in India and Ceylon 1966/67 2nd Test India v West Indies WI Won
- 12th Dec 1969 Australia in Ceylon, India and South Africa 1969/70 4th Test India v Australia Aus Won
- 30th Dec 1972 Marylebone Cricket Club in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka 1972/73 2nd Test India v England Ind Won
- 27th Dec 1974 West Indies in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka 1974/75 3rd Test India v West Indies Ind Won
- 1st Jan 1977 Marylebone Cricket Club in India, Sri Lanka and Australia 1976/77 2nd Test India v England Eng Won
- 29th Dec 1978 West Indies in India and Sri Lanka 1978/79 3rd Test India v West Indies Drawn
- 26th Oct 1979 Australia in India 1979/80 5th Test India v Australia Drawn
- 29th Jan 1980 Pakistan in India and Bangladesh 1979/80 6th Test India v Pakistan Drawn
- 1st Jan 1982 England in India and Sri Lanka 1981/82 4th Test India v England Drawn
- 10th Dec 1983 West Indies in India 1983/84 5th Test India v West Indies WI Won
- 31st Dec 1984 England in India, Sri Lanka and Australia 1984/85 3rd Test India v England Drawn
- 11th Feb 1987 Pakistan in India 1986/87 2nd Test India v Pakistan Drawn
- 26th Dec 1987 West Indies in India 1987/88 3rd Test India v West Indies Drawn
- 29th Jan 1993 England in India and Sri Lanka 1992/93 1st Test India v England Ind Won
- 27th Nov 1996 South Africa in India 1996/97 2nd Test India v South Africa SAF Won
- 18th Mar1998 Australia in India 1997/98 2nd Test India v Australia Ind Won
- 16th Feb 1999 Asian Test Championship 1998/99 India v Pakistan Pak Won
- 11th Mar 2001 Australia in India 2000/01 2nd Test India v Australia Ind Won
- 30th Oct 2002 West Indies in Bangladesh and India 2002/03 3rd Test India v West Indies Drawn
- 28th Nov 2004 South Africa in India 2004/05 2nd Test India v South Africa Ind Won
- 16th Mar 2005 Pakistan in India 2004/05 2nd Test India v Pakistan Ind Won
- 30th Nov 2007 Pakistan in India 2007/08 2nd Test India v Pakistan Drawn
- 14th Feb 2010 South Africa in India 2009/10 2nd Test India v South Africa Ind Won
- 14th Nov 2011 West Indies in India 2011/12 2nd Test India v West Indies Ind Won
- 5th Dec 2012 England in India 2012/13 3rd Test India v England Eng Won
- 6th Nov 2013 West Indies in India 2013/14 1st Test India v West Indies Ind Won
- 30th Sep 2016 New Zealand in India 2016/