A day after the International Cricket Council (ICC) ruled out Eden Gardens in Kolkata as the venue for the India-England World Cup match scheduled for 27 February, Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) president Jagmohan Dalmiya hangs on to hope.
A letter, he says, has been sent to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), asking for a review of the decision. “A reply is awaited. Let us wait for the ultimate outcome,” Dalmiya says, amid widespread accusations of CAB’s ineffectiveness in handling the Eden renovation project.
Even as CAB officials went into a huddle on Friday, news agency IANS reported that the BCCI had written to the ICC to reconsider its decision.
One of the biggest cricket-playing arenas in the world, Eden Gardens is no stranger to controversy. Fifteen years ago, during the 1996 World Cup, when India were facing imminent defeat in the semi-final against Sri Lanka, the crowd had rioted so violently that the match had to be abandoned.
Though Dalmiya, a former ICC and BCCI chief, is known for pulling off last-minute miracles, his fiefdom, the iconic Eden Gardens, is far from being match-ready. In fact, it resembles a war zone.
Bucket seats, which are to replace the concrete benches, are yet to be fully installed in some stands. Once the new arrangements are in place, the stadium’s official seating capacity will be 63,000, down from 84,000.
A gigantic crane, reaching up to two-thirds of the height of the light towers, works noisily at one end. The stadium’s floodlights, which have often blacked out in crucial match situations, will get more powerful and energy-efficient bulbs, with generators as the primary power source instead of the city’s power supply agency. Food courts, a new multi-facility media centre, corporate boxes, more toilets and drinking water facilities have been planned. Work is also on to overhaul the fire alarm and electric wiring systems, and install CCTV cameras.
The refurbished player dressing rooms are to have a jacuzzi and sauna. For the moment, a couple of stray dogs loll around. Much of the work is in various degrees of readiness—or unpreparedness, as the ICC observers ruled.
The debris and dust inside the stadium only seem to underscore ICC’s rationale for not allowing the match at the stadium that hosted the 1987 World Cup final between England and Australia—the visible accumulation of unfinished work belies CAB’s hopes of getting an extension in deadline till 7 February.
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The CAB missed its third deadline on 25 January. Eden Gardens was supposed to be ready first by 30 November and then by 31 December. “It was a mammoth exercise for which we literally pulled down half of the stadium to build afresh,” says Biswarup Dey, CAB’s joint secretary. “In between, work was hindered because of Eden hosting the India-South Africa Test in February and the IPL (Indian Premier League) games. But work would have been completed by early February,” he adds.
The ground is scheduled to host three more non-India World Cup games—South Africa vs Ireland (15 March), The Netherlands vs Ireland (18 March) and Kenya vs Zimbabwe (20 March). The ICC is expected to inspect the venue for these matches on Monday.
Eden Gardens, established in 1864, continues to await its tryst with modernity.
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