Eden Gardens stadium was built in the year 1864, and it hosted the first test in 1936. Calcutta was the Capital of British India for a major period of time, and so the big stadium was built on Fort William grounds. In the local language it is called “Gorer Math”. The ground which had a capacity of 85,000, now reduced to 67,000 has been witness to many histories in Indian sports.
The stadium is one of the iconic structures in the city of Kolkata now, known as Calcutta earlier. Till the Saltlake Stadium was built, even football matches were hosted at the Eden Gardens. Now all football matches are played at the Saltlake Stadium, which is the second biggest in Asia. The capacity at Eden Gardens is the highest for any cricket stadium in the world.
In 1911, a local club of Kolkata, defeated the Britishers to lift the IFA Sheild. The final which is a folklore of Indian sporting history was played at this iconic ground. 1964 saw Sir Garfield Sobers chased out of Eden Gardens, after he refused to take the field, as there were crowds sitting outside the boundary line. The city of Kolkata, and Eden Gardens have always lived up to its respect of giving full capacity stadiums for all international matches. Most players have a dream to play at Eden Gardens in front of such huge vociferous crowds.
The Reliance World Cup Final of 1987, was the first World Cup final played outside of Lords. That match was also played at Eden Gardens. The crowd at Eden has always been the most emotional and vociferous. Gavaskar who was India’s first superstar cricketer had stopped playing at Eden Gardens, after he was booed in a Test Match for dropping Kapil Dev.
Entry of Maharaj
Though Eden Gardens was a part of cricket culture of India, Bengal was very scantly represented in Indian team till 1996. In 1996, Sourav Ganguly, who was nicknamed the Maharaj, which means Prince, debuted for India at Lords. He started his Test Career with two back to back centuries and played more than 100 tests for India. He also became the Captain of the Indian side from 2000 to 2005.
Australia came to tour India for a 3 test series, on the backdrop of winning 15 consecutive tests. Their Captain Steve Waugh declared India as the final frontier, as they had won at everywhere till then, other than India. The first test was played in Mumbai and the Aussies won it handsomely. It was the a three test series, and the second test match was at Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
The Aussies batted first and piled up a huge score in the first innings. The Indian batsmen could not resist much against the Aussies, were looking at following on, at close of second day’s play. Sourav Ganguly was the Captain of that Indian team then. The Australian commentators had already started their partying for celebrating the conquer of the final frontier. The then President of the Cricket Association of Bengal, warned them not to celebrate that fast, as they may have to be on the ground on the fifth day for doing commentary.
Australia enforced the follow on, on the 3rd day, and captain Ganguly swapped the batting order for Laxman and Dravid. Laxman walked in to bat at No.3 in the second innings for India. Ganguly himself came into bat at No.5, and scored a gritty 47. The overnight batsmen at the end of Day 3 was Dravid and Laxman, with India still arond 200 behind the Aussie total. On the 4th day, Australia could not get a single wicket. Laxman and Dravid batted through the day, and got a India a sizeable lead. They won the test match on the 5th evening with two overs remaining. India under Ganguly at Eden Gardens, had stopped the Australian juggernaut of 16 test victories. India went on to win the next test, giving Ganguly his first test series victory as Captain.
Sourav Ganguly who plays his cricket from Bengal, had scripted one of the big turnarounds in his own career. He was dropped for non cricketing reasons from the Indian team in 2005. He made his comeback in 2007, and then celebrated with a century at Eden Gardens against Pakistan. The man became the Captain of the Indian cricket team, and also the President of the Cricket Board in India.
Eden Gardens was also host to the entry match of South Africa in World Cricket, after their ban for apartheid was removed. Thereafter it was the Hero Cup semifinal, and the first Day/night ODI at Eden Gardens. At the end of the 99th over of the day, India were staring at a loss, as South Africa needed just 6 to win of the last over, with two wickets in hand. Sachin Tendulkar volunteered to bowl the last over, and mixed spin and medium pace to win the match for India.
History goes Pink
After 155 years of its existence, a new chapter of history will be added to Eden Gardens. The first Day/Night Match to be played on Indian soil will be played here at Eden Gardens. It will be the first Day/Night test to be played by both teams, India and Bangladesh. To turn it into a historic affair, the city has turned pink to celebrate the era of Pink Ball Cricket in India. The BCCI President is making all efforts to make the match in his home venue a memorable one.
The President believes that Pink Ball cricket is the future of Test Cricket in India and the World. The Bangladesh Prime Minister is coming to grace the occasion. The Bengal Chief Minister will also be there, and also the Home Minister of India. Lots of celebrities will also be gracing the occassion, like singers from Bengal and Bangladesh. Bengal and Bangladesh also have the same linguistic culture, which helps them come closer.
Eden Gardens which is the pride of Bengal, gives happy memories for Bengal, and makes every Bangladeshi happy also. 67,000 people will be in the stadium when the Bell rings today.