A detail map of Eden Gardens and the cricket ground in 1875
Early History of Bengal Cricket leading to the formation of the Cricket Association of Bengal in 1928
Organised cricket among the Bengalis had received a significant boost at the turn of the century in 1910 with the formation of the Bengal Gymkhana. Dwijen Sen, secretary of the Sporting Union Club and chief architect of the initiative, found a willing patron in the Maharaja of Cooch Behar. The Gymkhana acquired a plot of ground on the maidan beside the Shahid Minar (then the Ochterlony Monument) and had access to the Woodlands cricket ground at Cooch Behar House in Alipore. In 1911, the Bengal Gymkhana played its first match at Woodlands against an opposition fielded by the Maharaja of Kashmir. The Gymkhana spread the gospel of cricket in far-flung areas of the province. It undertook tours to Dhaka and Mymensingh, where cricket was on the wane after the annulment of the partition of Bengal in 1911. The efforts of the Bengal Gymkhana were complemented by the formation of strong cricket sides by the Maharajas of Cooch Behar and Natore, Mymensingh and Rangpur. The Maharajas fielded their own teams, of which they were active members. The practice of hiring foreign coaches and players to improve the standard of play was also common. It is interesting to note that by hiring English professionals, the Maharajas reversed the prevalent hierarchy of employment in colonial India.
The outcome of these influences, Patu Mukherjee argues in the CAB's Silver Jubilee Souvenir, was that:
'It wrought an immense improvement in the standard of cricket among the Bengalis. That fact will be borne out if the performances of the Bengali teams of the first decade of this century be compared with that of the second. During the previous one they generally fared poorly against the British and Anglo-Indian teams. Things were different in the next. The Town Club, the Aryans, Mohammedan Sporting, Mohun Bagan, Kumartuli and the Howrah Sporting often contended successfully against the best English and Anglo-Indian teams and their failures were few and far between . . . . Another feature of this period was that quite a large number of youths began actively to participate in the game instead of being mere spectators.'
A map of the Calcutta maidan 1854. Eden Gardens came to be the ground in between Fort William and Baboo Ghat.
It was a tribute to the level of cricket in Bengal that two players from Bengal, Bidhu Mukherji of the Aryans Club and Faguram groundsman of the Calcutta Cricket Club, were invited for the trials to choose the All-India team that toured England in 1911.
By the 1920s, therefore, Bengal's cricket had acquired considerable prominence, and its teams could easily compete with the best teams of the country. In 1922-23, a team from Bengal comprising Bengali, Anglo-Indian and English cricketers toured the Central Provinces and Berar, winning several matches. Teams from Rawalpindi and Chennai came to Bengal in 1922-23. In 1926-27, the Calcutta Cricket Club was instrumental in bringing to India the MCC side led by Arthur Gilligan, a tour universally acknowledged to have transformed Indian cricket.
P.C. Mukherjee speaks of the improvement in Bengal cricket between 1900-20:
'The local Bengali players showed marked improvement during this period. Besides Bidhu Mukherji and K. Ray, the most prominent amongst the batsmen was M. Das of Howrah. Having been associated with the Natore CC, he turned out a safe and sound all-rounder with a variety of scoring strokes. He was a brilliant fielder and later on took to bowling as well. The late Pratul Banerjee of Sporting Union was another star performer. Receiving necessary instructions from Cooch Behar players he turned out a useful bat and was the best wicket-keeper among the locals. Many European cricketers were of the opinion that he would have found a place in any county team in England.'
Finally, In a meeting held on February 3 1928, presided over by the President of the Calcutta Cricket Club, it was agreed by the clubs present that the Cricket Association of Bengal and Assam should be formed with the President and Secretary of the Calcutta Cricket Club serving as the President and Secretary of the Association. The working committee, it was agreed upon would consist of 9 members of which 3 were to be Europeans, 2 Hindus, with a member each from among the Parsees, Mohammedans, Anglo-Indians and Assam. As the President and Secretary of the CCC were President and Secretary of the CAB, the Europeans had two additional seats on the working committee giving them a numerical superiority in matters of dispute and those which called for voting. This framework continued till the beginning of the 1940s, when the numerical superiority was finally done away with.