Low Eden turnout sparks nostalgia (Feature)

October 28th, 2011 - 6:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Oct 28 (IANS) The low turnout at the Eden Gardens Tuesday for the India-England One-Dayer may have disappointed cricket buffs, but the agony is more for nostalgic old-timers who recall the riveting matches between the two sides before packed stands.

Memorable moments abound, so do controversies generated by the emotive Kolkatans out of their love for their sporting heroes.

The Eden faithful recall how Salim Durrani and Chandu Borde’s all round show set up an Indian victory in 1961-62, Collin Cowdrey’s classic hundred three years later, and Bhagwat Chandrasekhar piloting India to another win in 1972-73 with his guile-filled googlies.

Then there were two unforgettable knocks by Mohammad Azharuddin, his masterly hundred on debut in the 1984-85 series and a blazing 182 to fashion an innings win for India in 1993.

India and England have been clashing at the coliseum-like stadium for 77 years since 1934. The two sides have played nine Test matches here, with India wining three and England one. Two One-Dayers were played here and the hosts won both, including the one Tuesday.

Kolkata hosted the second ever Test match, two years after the country played its first official Test in England in 1934.

The Douglas Jardine-led side coasted to an eight-wicket victory inside four days, with spinner Hedley Verity, who died four years later fighting the Germans in the Second World War, taking four wickets in each innings.

The next Test 17 years later in 1951 ended in a tame draw.

Recalls C.D.Gopinath, the only surviving member of that Indian team: “I was bedridden with flu during the match. But because we were losing wickets in the first innings I came to the ground, padded up, and was given raw egg and brandy for energy. I had a fifty-odd partnership with Dattu Phadkar, who got a hundred.”

Ten years later, it was a Durrani-Borde duet. Durrani scored 43 in the first innings and picked up eight wickets in the match. Borde struck sixty-plus knocks in both innings, besides taking half a dozen wickets to fashion India’s second win over England.

“In those days the Eden wicket used to aid quality medium-pacers. Only on the fourth and fifth day the spinners got assistance. I kept a good line and length and succeeded,” Durrani told IANS.

“England were a good side, specially in bowling. But we won because of good team work.”

Borde said skipper Nari Contractor had made good use of the spinners. “Salim (Durrani) and myself were called spin twins. Our combination was very useful. Then also, the English batsmen were uncomfortable against spin.”

“Eden was the best ground in India then, the outfield was superb. The people were great sports lovers. During lunch time there were lot of families who would eat home-made food,” Borde told IANS.

“I had a lot of friends in Kolkata. I used to go to them, sit in a circle and have lunch.”

Old Kolkatans remember those days of relaxed cricket watching, with the matches held in the winter. People savoured the game, eating oranges. Many women used to come to the ground with wool and knitting needles.

The 1964 Test was drawn. “(Mansoor Ali Khan) Pataudi was then the captain. I remember the match only because of Cowdrey’s classic knock,” said Durrani.

Durrani also played in the 1972-73 Test and top scored in the second innings (53). By then the era of the three spinners — Bishan Singh Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna and Bhagwat Chandrasekhar — was ushered in. They spun India to victory with Chandrasekhar taking nine wickets.

“There were great scenes of jubilation. The fans even turned up at the team hotel dancing,” said Durrani.

The script was, however, reversed in 1976-77 as Tony Greg led England from the front to a ten-wicket victory with a painstaking 100 that took over seven hours during which he showed admirable patience and used the pad to defy the spinners.

The 1982 and 1984-85 Tests finished in drab draws, the latter was replete with controversies.

In the second Test at Ferozshah Kotla, Delhi, India lost to England with Kapil Dev getting out to a suicidal shot in the second innings. Kapil was dropped from the Kolkata Test team.

His fans in Kolkata were enraged. There were demonstrations, and posters screamed “No Kapil, No Test”.

A section of fans saw the whole incident as a conspiracy, alleging skipper Gavaskar’s hand in it.

Ugly scenes were witnessed during the match as fans pelted tomatoes and oranges at Gavaskar and some of his family members in protest what they claimed delay in declaring the Indian first innings.

An angry Gavaskar said he would never again play in Kolkata. And he stuck to his word.

(Sirshendu Panth can be contacted at s.panth@ians.in)

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