There are cricket stadiums and then there is Eden Gardens. Yes, a match at the Lord’s of India brings along with it humongous expectations every time, that of a historic Indian win. Mohammad Azharuddin always scored runs here — even when he batted with his eyes closed, his protégé of sorts VVS Laxman has scored four hundreds and over a 1,000 runs in nine Test, and Harbhajan Singh would die to play cricket over here game after game.
Undoubtedly, this ground at Kolkata holds special memories for India. Can we ever forget that miraculous turnaround in 2001 against Australia? It was only fitting then at India retained their numero uno status with yet another superlative performance against the chief contender for the throne, South Africa.
So what is it about the Eden that makes cricket viewing such an amazing experience? The main reason, without an eye blink, has to be the wonderful crowd (1996 being an exception of sorts) that turns up in huge numbers to witness a Test on all five days of a game. Rarely, even in India, will we see a full house for the traditional version of the game.
It happens only in Eden! Sad then that the venue doesn’t get a chance to host enough Tests, while lesser venues keep getting opportunities time and again despite producing dull draws. A lot of it must be due to the political battle between Bengal’s cricketing association and the BCCI in recent times. True, the crowd too isn’t the most sporting when India loses, but then that isn’t reason enough not to give the ground its due, at least not yet.
After all, the Eden Gardens has given us so many wonderful, unforgettable memories. It was here that VVS Laxman became Very Very Special and Harbhajan Singh turned into the Turbanator. Some of the shots Laxman played during that knock of 281 will be etched in our memories till time immemorial.
And for not one moment during that innings did he ever come even close to getting out. Once again, it was the Eden magic at work. The unbelievably high decibel of noise the crowd makes gives the opposition the illusion that they are playing against 60-70 thousand people instead of 11. Laxman has played many good knocks elsewhere, but it’s at Eden that he has always looked at home.
Same is the case with Harbhajan. This was the same ground at which he had resurrected his international career with a match-turning bowling performance against the Aussies. Before this game, he was miserably struggling to find his rhythm. But look what the return to his favourite venue did for the heavily under-fire off-spinner.
Not only did his performance lift to incredible heights, but the team’s fortunes turned around astoundingly as well, despite a Nagpur-like start for the South Africans with the bat. One is not sure if Harbhajan will repeat such heroics at other venues, but be rest assured that the next time he steps on to the Eden turf, he will deliver something out of the ordinary.
Yes, that’s the magic of Eden Gardens!
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