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Sunday, April 05, 2020

Around Eden Gardens: A splash of bonhomie, nostalgia and lunch at 3 pm

Hasina has maintained that her latest visit to Kolkata for the pink-ball, day-night Test is purely on a cricket invite.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Kolkata | Updated: November 23, 2019 8:21:05 am
Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar during the historic pink-ball day/night cricket Test match between Indian and Bangladesh, at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Friday. (PTI)

Cricket unites

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the Indian cricket board (BCCI) secretary and Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s son Jay and Congress leader Rajeev Shukla sat next to each other and chatted at the Eden Gardens clubhouse… Such sights are not common in Indian politics, but Friday was different. Kolkata was hosting a historic event—India’s first-ever day-night Test. Before the start of the match, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina held court. “Ei toh captain (the captain is here),” she pointed to Banerjee, as photographers requested them to stand alongside the two captains, Virat Kohli and Mominul Haque, for a photograph.

Beyond politics and sharing of river waters, the two leaders share a warm personal camaraderie and it was on show at Eden. The Chief Minister also presented the Bangladesh Prime Minister a picture of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country’s first president and Hasina’s father.

No politics, please

Hasina has maintained that her latest visit to Kolkata for the pink-ball, day-night Test is purely on a cricket invite. “Bangali chhele Sourav amake dawat diyeche, tai aami Kolkata jabo (Bengali boy Sourav has invited me, that’s why I will go to Kolkata),” the Bangladesh Prime Minister had said a few days ago. True to her word, she arrived in Kolkata on Friday morning for a breezy one-day tour.

BCCI president Sourav Ganguly and Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) secretary Avishek Dalmiya were at the airport to receive the guest of honour. Hasina restricted her political activity to a meeting with Banerjee at a south Kolkata hotel in the evening.

Pink in excitement

The hype had gone through the roof for the pink-ball Test. Pink became the city’s early winter colour, from the newly-installed manual scoreboard at the stadium to The 42 at Chowringhee – Kolkata’s tallest building.

As toss time arrived, at 12.30, excitement increased. Former left-arm spinner Murali Kartik, commentating pitch-side for the official broadcaster erred on the Bangladesh skipper’s last name – ostensibly in excitement—calling him Mominul Islam instead.

Dream realised

A special coin had been minted for the toss. And after Hasina and Banerjee met the players, the teams stood for the national anthems, accompanied by the HIV+ kids from OFFER, an NGO. One of them, a 13-year-old girl, had handed Kohli a bouquet of 254 roses to celebrate his 254 not out against South Africa last month, when the India captain visited the NGO two days ago. Virat walked out holding her hand.
“I’m over the moon. I can’t believe such a thing can happen,” said the girl. The brass band played Amar Sonar Bangla and Jana Gana Mana, both written and composed by Rabindranath Tagore. Hasina and Banerjee rang the Eden bell to start the match.

Sessions tweaked

A 3pm supper break served an oddity. Usually in a day-night Test, tea is called after the first session followed by the supper break after the second session. But this day-night Test is played in full winter, with an early, 1pm, start. To minimise the dew factor, the breaks were tweaked.

Legends in the house

Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble, VVS Laxman and Harbhajan Singh sat for a chat show during the supper break. They recollected Laxman’s 281 against Australia at this venue that snatched victory for India from the jaws of defeat. During the tea break, as former India captains did a lap of honour, a full house stood up to applaud. The national flags of India and Bangladesh fluttered side by side at L Block.

Plenty of questions: Shastri

The historic significance of India’s maiden Day/Night Test isn’t lost on him but national coach Ravi Shastri on Friday also struck a note of caution by saying that “plenty of questions” on the pink ball’s behaviour are still to be answered. Seven years after the International Cricket Council (ICC) gave its go ahead, India finally embraced the revamp which is aimed at bringing back the crowds to the Test format. “(It’s a) historic occasion, boys will look forward to it. There will be a wait-and-watch game as well,” Shastri said while speaking to the official broadcaster here before the start of opening day’s play in the game.

“Plenty of questions to be answered and time will tell,” he added.

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