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The Eden Gardens: The right venue for India to salvage lost pride

There are moments in an Indian sportsperson’s life when he gets spurred on by the support of the crowd. The fighter in him comes onto the fore, the courage to fight the fiercest of battles is gained and history is scripted which reminds the world time and again about the fighting qualities of the Indian sportspersons per se. They are labelled as too self-deprecating and soft. That is exactly the case with the Indian cricket team that is always under the microscope and one bad performance makes the immortals and the cynosure of all eyes into a mere entity which either is not capable of performing anymore or some people who have already passed their sell-by date.

Whenever a person is fighting against himself, a religious pilgrimage offers a hope and solace to him. The divine intervention might just help the person get back to his state of normalcy. In the city of Joy, Kolkata, there is a religious pilgrimage which gives a lot of hope to the Indian cricketers whenever they go there. The demigods of the cricket team revere the crowds, the youngsters are in awe of this wonderful place and the visiting teams have to battle not only against the 11-men from the opposition, but also against the vociferous Eden crowd, the stadium which has the capacity of about a 1,00,000 people. Whenever the ball is thrust onto the pads of the opposition batsman, the crowd shouts for you- that includes people sitting in the stands where they get a skewed view of the action. They hope their appeal yields a positive result. A single is sometimes cheered as much as a boundary; so imagine what might happen when a batsman from India scores a century.

Can anyone forget the year 2001, when the Eden crowd witnessed one of the most amazing fightbacks from India in the modern era? The home team was bruised and battered by the Australians at the Wankhede stadium – just a few days back, then. At the Eden Gardens, by the end of the second day, India was battling to save a follow-on, which they eventually got on the third day. The crowds were disappointed but egged on their team to do well in the second innings. Sitting at home, one felt like venting out frustrations on the bowlers who were incapable of polishing off the Australian tail. The last two Australian wickets added almost 200 runs; the Indian batsmen played horrendous shots on the second day. A cricket fan gets deeply hurt when his team appears so incapable of even standing up to the contest. But, the Eden crowd sung wholesome praises about the team and narrated inspiring comeback tales to one another. The Indians, according to most of the fans across the country, were fighting a lost cause. And who were Indians fighting against? It was a team that had won everywhere. They had won playing good cricket and had battled against every condition – which was supposedly presented before them to give them a tough time. This team had won 16 matches on the trot and were on course to win their 17th game as well. But this time, they were also fighting against the crowd’s optimism and their unconditional love for their team.

In the second innings VVS Laxman was compiling a wonderful poetry. The words and the stanzas in his poem were duly appreciated by the crowd. The swagger from his willow was similar to a well-written couple of words. Rahul Dravid on the other hand, was struggling to find alphabets to frame a word, forget him composing a poetry like Laxman. The crowd asked him to be patient. Dravid struggled to find rhythm in his batting; he looked ugly but he did not give up. On the fourth day, he was clueless for half an hour. But like a true warrior, he hung on. He rotated the strike and let Laxman continue his artistry. After a while even Dravid looked comfortable after surviving a close leg before appeal against Ricky Ponting’s bowling. Whenever Ponting appealed along with his team, the crowds shouted “not out.” When umpire S.K.Bansal echoed the crowd’s sentiments – they cheered happily. Laxman scored 281 and Dravid scored 180. Harbhajan Singh bowled India to a victory on the final day and picked up 13 wickets in the match.

The partisan crowd got what they deserved. The sacred place of Eden Gardens witnessed history being created in front of their own eyes. When the last Australian wicket fell, even the security guards in the ground, who were keeping an eye on the crowds, started to jump in joy. The Indian team had caused a massive upset beating the Invincible Australian team. The Kolkata triumph changed the history of Indian cricket history. There was a lot of self-confidence in the team, which helped them notch up series wins in England, West Indies, Pakistan in the future.

The Australian domination ended at Kolkata. The crowd never wished bad against the Australian team. In fact, when Steve Waugh reached his hundred, he got a standing ovation. The Australian fielding was appreciated. The Eden crowd is knowledgeable for sure and it is guaranteed that quality cricket will be appreciated, irrespective of the team.

The Indian team currently is getting flak from all quarters. The Dhoni-led Indian Test team is in tatters after the loss at the Wankhede stadium against England. The Indian team is visiting the sacrosanct land of the Eden. If the team is in search of motivation, they needn’t worry. The team just needs to turn up on the ground. Who knows, this time Eden might script another tale in the cricketing annals, which might as well be a folklore in the near-future. The cricket team is in search of an inspiration – Eden welcomes the Indian cricket team.

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