Eden Gardens, Kolkata: ‘The Lords of Asia’ & ‘the Mecca of Cricket’ – is this World’s second largest open-air Cricket Stadium (in seating capacity) and India’s largest cricket stadium - the most esteemed Eden Gardens in Kolkata city of West Bengal State in India. Located at 22°33′52″N 88°20′36″E, and situated along the banks of river Hooghly since 1864, Eden Gardens is a landmark by itself in this cricket-crazed city of this cricket-centred country.
You have not played cricket unless you’ve played in front of a packed Eden Gardens - this monstrous, lush green turfed stadium with high-intensity flood-lights and faced 1,30,000 anxious and boisterous spectators who fill up the stadium and the city with their loud passionate shouts and slogans of joy and pain and the unanimous Mexican waves with every boundary and duck and the likes and of course the deafening decibels of the screaming lakh-plus voices. Imagine playing in the centre of that? It’s nerve-wrecking! But some have managed to not only survive this ordeal…..they’ve aced it. Ask Kapil, Sunny, Sachin, Laxman, Azhar, Dravid, Harbhajan, Kumble, Bishen and Kolkata’s own Sourav Ganguly and they’d tell you how they’ve managed to ‘tame this shrew’!
Eden Gardens is known for its ‘spin-bowler-friendly’ emerald green pitch; the most technologically advanced cricket stadium - with a state-of-the-art electronic scoreboard, a fabulous pavilion (partly sheltered) and gigantic floodlit towers which emit million watts rays during day-night cricket matches and its large partisan and vociferous crowds. The best time to witness the euphoric and electrifying atmosphere of Eden Gardens is on any One Day International when the spectators in stands bring alive the whole stadium like nowhere else.
‘Eden Gardens’ is Cricket’s answer to the ‘Colosseum’ – an open-air elliptical amphitheatre established in 80 AD in Rome, Italy – where the famous gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as the re-enactments of famous battles were held. Such is the visual magnitude of its greatness that the Eden Gardens is reckoned comparable to the Colosseum - the iconic symbol of Imperial Rome! Of course…..the game – Cricket has added its share of weightage here as well. While the Colosseum was built to seat 50, 000 spectators, the Eden Gardens can hold about 1, 20,000 cricket maniacs from all over the world – plus, the stadium is known to host crowds of 1, 30,000 during popular matches.
Eden Gardens is home to the ‘Bengal Cricket Team’ - the Elite Group of the domestic First-Class Cricket Championship – the Ranji Trophy launched in 1934 - and the ‘Kolkata Knight Riders’ (KKR) – the Kolkata franchise team of the Indian professional league co-owned by the Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan - for Twenty20 cricket competition called the ‘Indian Premier League’ (IPL) launched in 2008. A subset of First class Cricket – ‘Test Matches’ which are played between National representative Teams spanning 5 days and the ‘One Day International’ (ODI) also called the ‘Limited Overs Internationals’ - a form of the limited overs cricket match played in just one day - are both played here at the Eden Gardens. One Day Internationals of Cricket World Cup hosted at the Eden Gardens were in 1987 (Champions Australia) and 1996 (Champions Sri Lanka). For the 2011 Cricket World Cup, Eden Gardens was the first choice but due to incomplete renovation the venue was shifted to the Sheshrao Krushnarao Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai where India defeated Sri Lanka by 6 wickets.
The current renovated Eden Gardens Stadium includes a new Clubhouse and Players’ facilities; new patron amenities and signage; new metal skin cladding for the existing roof structure; new façade to the exterior walls of the stadium and improvements made to the general infrastructure.
The governing body for Cricket in West Bengal – Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) is headquartered in the ‘Dr. Bidhan. Chandra Roy Club House’ in Eden Gardens and owns, operates and organizes various cricket league tournaments in Eden Gardens and all other parts of West Bengal. The Eden Gardens, which is situated in the Maidan area of Kolkata city - the hub of sports in the city, falls under the jurisdiction of the Army’s Eastern Command from whom it has been leased out.
Apart from this, The Cricket Association of Bengal also promotes and develops Cricket among the poor by forming ‘West Bengal State T20 Cricket Association (WBSTCA) through which providing opportunities to the potentially talented in the form of District league tournaments.
The 18 District Associations under West Bengal State T20 Cricket Association – headquarted at the Eden Gardens are: KOLKATA District Twenty 20 Cricket Association, HOWRAH District Twenty 20 Cricket Association, NORTH 24 PARGANAS District Twenty 20 Cricket Association, SOUTH 24 PARGANAS District Twenty 20 Cricket Association, DARJEELING District Twenty 20 Cricket Association, BANKURA District Twenty 20 Cricket Association, BIRBHUM District Twenty 20 Cricket Association, BURDHAMAN District Twenty 20 Cricket Association, COOCHBEHAR District Twenty 20 Cricket Association, HOOGLY District Twenty 20 Cricket Association, JALPAIGURI District Twenty 20 Cricket Association, MALDA District Twenty 20 Cricket Association, MIDNAPUR District Twenty 20 Cricket Association, MURSHIDABAD District Twenty 20 Cricket Association, NADIA District Twenty 20 Cricket Association, PURULIA District Twenty 20 Cricket Association, NORTH DINAPUR District Twenty 20 Cricket Association, and NORTH DINAPUR District Twenty 20 Cricket Association.
Some of the remarkable events on this pitch:
- The Eden Gardens played host to the Reliance World Cup final of 1987 in which Australia was Champion - defeating England by 7 runs. Man of the Match was David Boon.
- The Eden Gardens played host to the Wills World Cup Semi-final in which Sri Lanka was Champion - defeating India by a concession. Man of the Match was PA de Silva.
- The top four highest scores Eden Gardens has in Test cricket - 657-7 in 2001, 643-6 in 2010, 633-5 in 1998 and 631-7 in 2011 - has been registered by India.
- VVS Laxman (Hyderabad) & Mohammed Azharuddin (Hyderabad) both scored 5 Centuries each on this pitch.
- VVS Laxman (1041 runs) followed by Mohammed Azharuddin (860 runs) and Rahul Dravid (843 runs) scored the most runs here.
- Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble and Bishen Singh took the most number of wickets here.
- Kapil Dev took a Hat-trick in One Day International against the Sri Lankans in 1991 in Eden Gardens.
- Harbhajan Singh became the first Indian to take a hat-trick in Test Cricket when he took a hat-trick against Australia in 2001 at Eden Gardens.
- On occasion of and to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India - National Governing Body for all Cricket in India) on 13 November 2004, a One Day International was played at Eden Gardens between India and Pakistan.
Few offbeat incidents on this turf that show ‘the crowd rules’ when the cricket fervor spilled into excess:
- In 1946, the former Indian cricketer, aggressive test batsman and Padma Shri awardee- Mushtaq Ali was dropped from the Indian team that was selected to play an unofficial test against Australian Services XI (a cricket team comprising solely military service personnel during World War II). Following the Eden Garden crowd protests with slogans like "No Mushtaq, No Test" - the selectors brought him back to play.
- The 1996 World Cup Semi-final played between India and Sri Lanka was called off and Sri Lanka awarded the match after the Eden Garden crowd disturbances which occurred due to the collapse of the Indian batting and the crowd went bezerk with frenzy.
- In 1999, when Sachin Tendulkar was declared run out after he collided with Pakistan s fast bowler - Shoaib Akhtar, the crowd noticed that Akhtar had impeded Tendulkar which caused them to riot and force the police to evict the spectators. The match continued in an empty stadium of Eden Gardens.
Eden Gardens firsts (records):
- The first ever First-Class match (guidelines defined by the Imperial Cricket Conference in 1947) played in Eden Gardens was in 1917.
- First Test match hosted by Eden Gardens was on Jan 5-8, 1934 - India V England.
- First One Day International hosted by Eden Gardens was on February 18, 1987 - India V Pakistan.
- First Women s World Cup played at Eden Gardens was in 1978 - India Women Vs. England Women - Champions England Women.
Such is the alluring and addicting nature of this game Cricket that even Women have graced and aced it. Incidentally, the Indian Women’s Cricket Team Captain – the all-rounder - and Captain since February 2009, is Jhulan Goswami – hailing from Nadia District of West Bengal. Jhulan is also the second highest wicket-taker in Indian Women’s Cricket after Neetu David of Uttar Pradesh.