Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sorry Eden Gardens

If there is one cricketing venue in the world where the home team plays with more than 100,000 members in its side then it is the Eden Gardens. Testimonies have been archived about the venue’s aura, so much so that many international cricketers consider playing in front of a packed Eden audience as a pre-requisite to qualify for the big league. Paradoxically today the worshipped site finds itself betrayed by its own caretaker. Kolkata’s passionate cricket lovers are known worldwide for their ability to inject high level emotional quotient into dead matches and converting them into epic encounters. Today they are disappointed and their confidence has been shattered because their sentiments have been taken for granted. The embarrassment handed over by the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) is too big to be hidden. The ICC Cricket World Cup is in the subcontinent after a gap of 15 years and it is a disgrace that the most deserving venue has been robbed of its privilege to host the sold out contest between India and England on 27th February 2011 for reasons that could have been easily avoided had the people concerned would have for once understood the importance of timelines. The Indian board still might pull of a miracle as it does so frequently using all its clout and make ICC look like a bunny by forcing it to refute its original decision but that is not the point.

For all its events The International Cricket Council (ICC) takes decisions based on a certain protocol and the idea needs to be respected because every time there is the pressure to deliver and questions to answer. In the larger scheme of things this year’s world cup is crucial as it has the potential to decide the future course of 50 over cricket. Therefore it becomes important for all stakeholders to understand the complexity and work in tandem with the parent body so that the execution is smooth and objective attained. CAB who were expected to be a key player in building the hype for the cup have been stumped even after being allowed extra time. The deadlines did not arrive from nowhere. It was in place much before ICC started its marketing campaign for last year’s World T20 which happened in West Indies. How could CAB not smell the coffee especially after what had unfolded in the country during the build up for the Commonwealth Games 2010. Was CAB arrogant in its approach? Did it think that the richness of Eden Gardens is indispensable to the success of the world cup? Like any other matter in Indian cricket the answers to these questions will never come out in the open from the right sources but in reality who is the Mickey here? Gone are the days when the maze used to be complex, today the general public can see through it to know what it wants. Anyone who follows cricket beyond on field action knows the history of the relationship status between the present ICC president and present CAB president but to term ICC’s verdict as a part of a political game plan is like a child blaming his poor score in exams because his bench partner did not allow him to copy from his answer sheet.

Heart goes out for the Barmy army members who would have already planned their trips and bought necessary tickets. Whichever venue will now be allocated the February 27th match for sure cannot accommodate as much Eden Gardens would have. CAB’s callous attitude has not only brought shame to the country but more importantly has ensured that today’s fan get one more reason to distant themselves from a game that has been trapped in off field controversies of late. Had any other venue failed to meet ICC’s requirement it would have been overlooked in the cricketing world but because the fingers have been pointed at the famed Eden Gardens the impact will be felt for many years. Every time an opportunity arises in the future the foreign media will ensure that it makes a mockery of the Indian system. The Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) has washed off its hand from the episode in its customary style but come to think of it and it is all interlinked. The board that has managed to float the second largest sporting league in the world within a span of three years has failed to show respect and gratitude to a historical destination that has been pivotal in making it one of the richest sporting bodies of the world. A ground that was established in 1864 and in every sense is the Mecca of Indian cricket deserves better treatment.

Every member of the Indian cricketing fraternity has lost some shine today and it will take some time before it is back again. This episode testifies that the pride that Indians take in being masters of last minute arrangements courtesy their jugaad setting is a myth that was waiting to be busted. CAB has asked for yet another deadline and has questioned ICC’s decision but that is a mere sympathy earning tactic. BCCI should immediately take charge of the situation and proactively ban Eden Gardens from hosting any first class and international matches till at least 2014. The occurrence of events is a blessing in disguise for BCCI to send the right message to all other associations so that such face saving errors are not repeated in the future.

Sidhanta Patnaik
29th January 2011, 12.50am
Lingarajpuram, Bangalore

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