Eden Gardens, Kolkata is one of the most iconic cricket grounds in the world. It hosted India’s second ever test match in Home in 1934 against mighty England led by Douglas Jardine.
Since Bombay Gymkhana ground did not host any more test matches after the inaugural test match in 1933, Eden Gardens is the longest-serving test match ground in India and also hosted the most number of International matches for India. The ground has also witnessed quite a few unique records and memorable performances. On Sunday Eden will be hosting the 7th T20 match.
West Indies first played at Eden gardens in 1948. Ten years later, during their second visit, they brought one of their strongest teams to India and defeated India quite comfortably with a 3 – 0 margin. The team included greats like Sir Garry Sobers, Sir Wes Hall, Roy Gilchrist, Conrad Hunte and a 23-year-old Rohan Kanhai, the second Indian origin player to play for West Indies. Kanhai was already popular with Indian crowd and he did no harm to his reputation with a masterful stroke of 256. The test match started on the last day of 1958 and Kanhai was unbeaten on 203 by the end of the day.
This 256 hold the record of highest score by any visiting batsman in India for 47 years. It was also the highest score at Eden Gardens for the next 43 years till a ‘very very special’ innings.
During the 1991 Asia Cup final against Sri Lanka, Kapil Dev achieved his only hat-trick in international cricket which initially went unnoticed by the crowd. Kapil got Roshan Mahanama caught behind in the last ball of his over. After another over, in which Arjuna Ranatunga was run out, he came back to get Sanath Jayasuriya and Rumesh Ratnayake on two consecutive balls and completed his hat-trick. In all the frenzy, the crowd did not realize that it was a hat trick and only found out when it was shown in the huge giant screen during the end of the innings.
The Magical Evening
In 1993, during the Hero Cup tournament, organized to commemorate the Cricket Association of Bengal’s diamond jubilee, Eden Gardens became the first Indian Cricket ground to have permanent floodlights. The beautiful ground looked like a dream under lights. India miraculously reached the final by beating South Africa when Sachin Tendulkar held his nerve to defend a target of 6 runs in the last over.
The final match of the tournament was also held at the Eden Gardens and was a repeat of 1983 World Cup final. West Indies was the strongest team in the tournament and India was asked to bat after winning the toss. India reached 225 for 7; thanks to a fine fifty from Vinod Kambli and handy contribution all around.
West Indies lost Phil Simmons early but reached 57 without any trouble with Brian Lara leading the way. But Tendulkar got the breakthrough and removed Lara which was followed by two back to back wickets by Kapil Dev, one of his last memorable performances. West Indies reached 101 when the Anil Kumble magic began! West Indies lost their last 6 wickets for 22 runs, all claimed by Kumble who finished with 6 for 12. This was the best bowling performance by an Indian for the next 20 years till Stuart Binny took 6 for 4 against Bangladesh.
The Test match for the Ages
The 2001 Test match against Australia was arguably the best test match ever on Indian soil. Steve Waugh’s Australia reached Kolkata with 16 back-to-back Test wins and was leading the Test series with 1 – 0 after thumping India by 10 wickets in Mumbai.
Australia won the toss and batted strongly to reach 214 for 2. Post lunch the match changed the dimension. When Australia was at 252/4, the young Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh got Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist and Shane Warne on consecutive deliveries and became the first Indian to take a Test match hat-trick in their 70-year history. The team and crowd went berserk and expected a fightback from India. But Steve Waugh with help from Gillespie and McGrath took Australia to 445. At the end of day-2, India was 128/8 and cricket fans were ready for another easy victory for Australia.
What happened next was the stuff of legends! Following on, India batted better in the second innings. However, when VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid ended day-3, Australia were still leading by 20 runs. On day 4 Laxman and Dravid displayed their class and highest order of batsmanship to bat whole day undefeated. In the process, Laxman broke Sunil Gavaskar’s long-standing record of highest Test score by an Indian and ended with 281. Rahul Dravid finished with 180.
The fairy tale was complete when Indian off-spinner Harbhajan and surprise leg-spinner Tendulkar became the master destroyer to give India one of their most memorable test victories. This was only the third instances for a team to win after following on in the history of the game.
Rohit’s Unique Celebration
In 2014, Eden Gardens was celebrating 150 years of its establishment and fireworks were added by Rohit Sharma playing against Sri Lanka. Just a year back, Rohit made his debut in the historic 199th Test of Sachin Tendulkar and scored a century. But on 13th November 2014, Rohit broke all possible ODI batting records to score a staggering 264 with 33 fours and 9 sixes. He toyed with the bowlers and virtually ended the careers of bowlers like Ajantha Mendis and Kulasekara. This was Rohit’s second ODI double hundred and most brutal of his all 3 double hundreds till date. India crossed 400 and Sri Lanka lost by 153 runs.
Apart from the above few, there are many great memories created at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. There should be honorable mention of few more cricketing moments like Azhar’s four centuries, Dravid’s century in both innings, Sourav Ganguly’s long-awaited home test century, the 1987 World Cup final and West Indies’ Triumph in 2016 World T20 final. Eden has seen it all, and it is nurturing a lot of dreams daily for more such moments of glory.