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Saturday, October 1, 2016

250th home test at Kolkatta ~ Kapil Dev to ring the bell - Lords to ... !!

Remember the Josalukkas advt featuring Vijay remembering the peon who rings the school bell !!

In the broad  corridors of the Red Building of Hindu High School, the walk of the attender would attract the attention of students inside the class room – before it even sounds, some would ready to fly away….  It was the sweet sound of school bell – #not physically a  bell# – but that of a metal hammered with a wooden object, creating enough sound audible to the locality.  There was a Public address system too,  through which Morning prayer was heard and some important announcements would be made.  They are perhaps missing now as many a schools have now adopted to technology and communicate to the students and their parents through e-mail and important announcements are posted on official website and other social media too.   

Milestones and more … after the 500th test for India at Kanpur, the 2nd test of the ongoing series has another – it is 250th test at home for India – at the pride of place Eden Gardens.

Despite their heavy loss, New Zealand didn’t play like pushovers. And this being the first time Eden Gardens is hosting a Test in September — when the last leg of monsoons is still clouding Bengal — not many can predict whether 15 sessions will be played out here.  Even a draw mean India are unbeaten at home for 13 Tests in a row, the longest since Feb 1980 when England beat India by 10 wickets to snap an incredible 20-match unbeaten streak.  Since then, twice have India remained unbeaten for 12 Tests at home but 13 always proved unlucky. One more unbeaten Test thus, can’t come at a more fitting venue than the Eden.

But at this venue, 4 years ago,  India  slumped to a second consecutive defeat to England and eventually lost the series 1-2. That time there was some fracas between the Captain and the chief ground curator Prabir Mukherjee, a close lieutenant of Jagmohan Dalmiya, which gave more advantage to the visitors than they would dream.

Captain Sourav Ganguly is the administrator now and another former Captain will be involved on day 1 – when there is going to be a golden toss literally.   Remember that India beat the mighty West Indies led by Clive Lloyd at Calcutta in 1974 with Anshuman Gaekwad, Karsan Ghavri making debuts and GR Vishwanath making a fine century.  This is not about statistics but something about ringing !

At the famous mecca of Cricket, Lord's Cricket Ground, in St John's Wood, London, owned by Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC),  the home of Middlesex County Cricket Club, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), theEuropean Cricket Council (ECC) and, until August 2005, the International Cricket Council (ICC) – there is this tradition. 

The ground is named after : Thomas Lord, a cricketer and shrewd businessman, born in Thirsk, Yorkshire, in 1755. He had come to London in order to remake the family fortune, which had been lost in Jacobite Rebellion, and was employed at the White Conduit Club in Islington - a private members' club - as a practice bowler and groundsman. His real talent was business though (he also worked as a wine merchant) and when, in 1787, a group of noblemen at the White Conduit Club approached Lord, seeking a more private location to play their cricket, he leapt on his chance. On 31 August 1787, encouraged by Lord Winchilsea's promise that any financial loss was insured against, Lord staged his first match, between Middlesex and Essex at Dorset Fields - the modern day location of Dorset Square.  The present day Lords is not the original place.  Lord was probably more relieved than disturbed when he learned in 1812 that Parliament had directed that the new Regent’s Canal would cut straight through his ground. Pocketing £4,000 in compensation he accepted the Eyre Estate’s offer of a new site for the third, and current, Lord’s Ground.  The man, Lord died in 1832, at 76 age.

The present ground can hold 28,000 spectators and membership is considered prestigious.  It celebrated its 200th  two hundredth anniversary in 2014. To mark the occasion, on 5 July an MCC XI captained by Sachin Tendulkar played a Rest of the World XI led by Shane Warne in a 50 overs match.

The ringing of 5 minute bell at Lords is ceremonious – and is usually done by an international cricketer, administrator or well-known enthusiast of the sport,  a recent tradition introduced in 2007. The bell located outside the Bowlers’ Bar of the Lord’s Pavilion, is rung to signify the imminent start of play, and it has become a great honour to be invited to ring it on the morning of a Test match.  In 2014 during England India Investec Test on day 4, it was our World Cup winning Captain Kapil Dev who rung the bell. 

The iconic Eden Gardens is all set to get a ‘bell’ like the one that hangs at the hallowed Lord’s ground in London, Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) president Sourav Ganguly said recently.   There have been few other players who have had the honours and it includes Sourav Ganguly too.   At Eden Gardens, every  morning it will be rung by a cricketer from either side or ex-players. The bell reportedly is an imported one !

For bringing more spectators, CAB is creating a fan zone for kids and to bring more corporates in to the Tests, the CAB has also decided to hand them tickets for the games. School, University students are also set to get free-tickets, 10 per cent of the total amount. So it is going to be ‘ringing bells jingle’ at Eden Gardens.

Way back in 1987 ~  the real dazzler – Krishnamachari Srikkanth, whom I adored and followed fanatically, played one of the greatest innings I saw in an ODI (judging by today’s standards also). 
Rajan Bala,  great sports writer had been  harsh  on Cheeka criticising the technique.  He wrote ‘Srikkanth and coaching manual have little to do with each other’. ~ and after this innings at Calcutta, he wrote – I am becoming his fan, which is something neither I nor Srikkanth ever thought would happen.  Srikkanth had just played an innings of life at Chepauk  test -  breath-taking assault as Srikkanth, cut, pulled and played with gay abandon to reach his maiden century in front of his home ground with all present cheering merrily.  He finally got out to Tauseef making 123 with 18 fours and 2 sixers. .

On 18th Feb was the 2nd One dayer at Eden Gardens, Calcutta.  Gavaskar had vowed not to play at Calcutta as crowds jeered him earlier.  Lalchand Rajput opened with Cheeka and was bowled by Imran; Raman Lamba too got out soon to Imran.  That was a day when Srikkanth cut, pulled and swatted Pak bowlers.  In those days, when 250 and a strike rate of around 80 were great, Srikkanth made 123 off 103 balls with 14 fours and 1 six.  India despite that cavalier knock, finished at 238 for 6 in 40 overs, which appeared a good winning total.  Imran went for 59 in his 10. 

I  still treasure  the paper cutting of Indian Express dated Feb 26, 1987 in which Rajan Bala hailed innings as a great display, comparing Srikkanth with Mushtaq Ali of yore.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
29th Sept. 2016.

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