The Eden Gardens fiasco: It Happens Only in India
With the ongoing India-England Test series tied at 1-1 after two see-saw matches at the Motera (where India blew away England) and at Wankhede (where England repaid the favour in full), we go into the third Test match at Eden Gardens with a clean slate and not knowing what to expect from either team, and most importantly, with another embarrassing incident, the types which happen only in India. Ever since the beginning of this important Test series, time and again, Dhoni has stressed on his need for ‘rank-turners’ and the strips provided at the previous two matches were tailor made as per his specifications, though the result might not have been good at the latter. In fact, the curators at Motera provided the team India captain with three juicy tracks to choose from, and yet, we are embroiled in a battle of egos as the match at Eden Gardens approaches.
Prabir Mukherjee has been the head curator at Eden gardens since 1985 and has laid down pitches for 14 Test matches since then, including the epic Kolkata Test in the ’01 series against Australia. The 83-year old has been a loyal servant to the game and has even prepared pitches for international tournaments, yet he openly stated Dhoni’s demand for a turning track at Eden as ‘unethical’ and one that was almost ‘impossible to comply with’. I shudder to think about the smile on Andy Flower’s face when he would have read about this feud and the severe lack of communication that is blatantly evident between our captain, his demands and those who are expected to fulfil them.
The story has two sides that can be discussed. Firstly, with so much time to prepare for this all important Test series, M.S Dhoni should have made his demands clear well in advance. I remember Wasim Akram once said that when he was Pakistan’s captain he used to sit down with the curator face-to-face and put forward his demands regarding the type of pitches he expected from his curators for an important upcoming series. Yet with our “superstars”, it appears stupid to expect such focus for the job at hand. With no prior commitments, and ample time to prepare for this series, Dhoni and Co. should have handled this more professionally and competently. An 83-year old man(Mukherjee) whose life has been devoted to the game he absolutely loves, should never be treated with such disrespect after all that he has done over the years. Mukherjee, even after losing his wife and daughter in May, did not take a single day off from work, but is now being shoved away by the higher authorities in a way which might urge him to quit his post rather unceremoniously.
On the other hand, Mukherjee is to be blamed for his choice of words. After all, he is just a curator and whatever be the situation, his job is to prepare a pitch according to the whims and fancies of his captain, else the purpose of a home game is defeated. With the result of this Test ever so important for Team India after the Wankhede debacle, instead of openly blabbering his views in front of the media and giving stick to Dhoni, he too should have refrained from opining and instead should have voiced his displeasure diplomatically to the higher authorities for the matter to get solved amicably, something a man of his ‘experience’ should definitely know by now. Maybe it’s a case of a man going over his head, given his long term at the Eden, but he too needed a reminder about the fact that he does not own Eden and that pitches were prepared before him and will be prepared after him. Mukherjee is known to be involved in spats in the past, most notably in ’05, when in protest of Ganguly’s exclusion from the squad, he prepared a ‘green-top’ against the wishes of then captain and coach Dravid and Chappell against S.A for an ODI, a match India lost by 10 wickets. Dhoni calling the pitch ‘ugly’ after last year’s ODI match against England probably did not help the cause as well, though India won on that occasion, en-route to blanking England 5-0.
The result of all this has been that the BCCI has appointed East Zone Chief curator Subhash Bhowmick to overlook the preparation of this pitch and ‘secretly’ Mukherjee has been shown the door. Although he has submitted a month long leave of absence on medical grounds, not commenting on his tentative return date, he was seen enjoying himself yesterday at the Ground after having a chat with Dalmiya and being told everything was fine. Whatever be the consequence of this ‘avoidable’ incident, a lot of unrest has been created and whether it will affect the team’s performance and the ‘crowd support’ remains to be seen, but with a great win in Wankhede and with their tails up high, England would certainly not mind watching all the proceedings from the sidelines and smiling deep down inside at events which happen only in India.