Sachin Bajaj Presents: Eden Gardens: Legends and RomanceGulu Ezekiel |
Author: Mukherji, Raju
Publisher: Global Cricket School
Rating: 4.5 stars
Few experiences can match being in the stands at the Eden Gardens, Calcutta (now Kolkata) in the 1970s and 80s during a Test match where close to 100,000 fanatical spectators would practically raise the roof whenever an opponent’s wicket fell or an Indian batsman reached a landmark.
Having witnessed my first Test match at the Eden in 1974-75, I can personally vouch for this spine-tingling experience.
Now with the capacity vastly reduced, but with the comforts for the fans increased, the Eden is past its heyday and these days only sees a full house when its Indian Premier League franchise Kolkata Knight Riders is in action. With many ‘fans’ confessing they come to see KKR owner Shah Rukh Khan prancing in the stands rather than watch the action on the field, Eden and Kolkata have surely fallen from the exalted heights they once enjoyed. A crying shame.
But with one of world cricket’s most iconic venues celebrating its 150th anniversary, you could not find a better chronicler than Raju Mukherji to produce a masterpiece of nostalgia and history which is a visual delight to boot.
Mukherji was one of those many unfortunate souls from Bengal who was unlucky to miss out on national selection, being a stylish batsman and captain of Bengal and East Zone in the 70s when he turned in some stellar performances for East Zone against foreign touring sides.
One of the most erudite ex-cricketers writing on the game. Mukherji’s family is inextricably linked to the history of cricket in Calcutta and Bengal.
A writer par excellence and a brilliant researcher, Mukherji brings out the stories behind the stories of not only Eden Gardens, but cricket in Calcutta and the rest of Bengal and Eastern India as well and even Bangladesh (formerly East Bengal and East Pakistan). In that sense the scope of this book is both wide and deep.
Mukherji succeeds because he has lived and breathed cricket in Bengal right from the 1960s and has first-hand experience of the history of cricket at the Eden and in Bengal. His access to historical photos – many of which have never been seen in print before – both from his family collection and from others intimately connected with Bengal cricket make this album a priceless gem.
Another charming aspect is tributes paid to the contributions made not just by famous players, but to support staff like umpires, officials, scorers, coaches, writers, ground-staff and others who contribute to the rich folklore and anecdotes that go towards making this a memorable publication.
Mukherji’s passion for history and research has also enabled him to dig out a rare gem of cricket history. The original patron of the Eden Gardens, the Calcutta Cricket Club which laid down the first cricket pitch at the ground in 1864, was all along thought to be founded in 1792, making it the second oldest cricket club after the Marleybone Cricket Club (MCC, 1787). But the author has produced a page from Hicky’s Bengal Gazette, the first ever English-language newspaper in India from December 1780 where a small piece mentions the existence of the CCC.
Its gems like this that make this book so very special.