Monday, February 15, 2010

An Eden Garden of a test

I have to say, I'm pleased as punch about this test match. The cricket has been excellent on a pitch that seems to afford a decent amount of bounce, while showing signs of providing turn to the spinners. As all good test wickets should, it is equally pleasing to both bowlers and batsmen, and ensures batting later in the game will be more challenging. Fifteen wickets have fallen, and 638 runs scored in the first two days. (That ten of those wickets have been South African no doubt has some bearing on my generally cheerful disposition regarding this game). More to the point, the fall of wickets has ensured that even though India have a lead of 46 in hand going into the third day, they cannot afford to relax, especially since they will have to bat last (with a batting line-up which includes two tyros, Vijay and Badri, whose confidence will have been badly shaken by how they were cleaned up by the Proteas' quicks).

But a significant factor in my appreciation of this game has to do with its venue. I'm glad to see cricket return to the Eden Gardens. The riots of the 1996/97 World Cup and 1999 Asia Cup almost turned me off it for a while, but its hard to stay mad at Eden Gardens for too long. Given its eastern location, the winter sunshine at the Gardens is brighter than the piss-weak variant we get in the more northern grounds, and the outfield is both fast and immaculate in pleasing contrast to other Indian grounds.

And though the deathly silences at Eden Gardens when an Indian wicket falls (or when the opposition scores a boundary) are disconcerting, the noise levels when India are doing well make up for it. The crowds, even though they don't approach the 80K plus figures we used to regularly see till a few years ago, are still large enough to make this ground the definitive Indian test ground. They raise the roof, they bring it down, they lever up Indian batsmen's averages and they lower that of the bowlers'. It's a cauldron, an amphitheater, a Hollywood Bowl filled to the rafters with cricketing teenyboppers. If you're an Indian captain, this is where you want to win matches, where your bowlers should go hunting for wickets in the last session of a day. How singularly appropriate that the Mother of all Comebacks should have happened here in 2001.

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