Kolkata: About the only thing that Bangladesh got right was spin bowling coach Daniel Vettori’s prediction that this would be a Test with the feel and flavour of a limited-over game. The Eden was not an intimidating shade of deep purple that it is when the Kolkata Knight Riders are home. But that was because pink was the theme of the afternoon officials and staff of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) wore pink shirts and its secretary Avishek Dalmiya was in a pink coat and tie. And also because this was no IPL game but a test in cricket’s most difficult format.
So, the players wore white and the umpires were in their traditional work outfits. Unlike the norm in over-specific games, India made the pink ball talk with their fast bowling trio of Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav taking all Bangladesh wickets. But everything else felt like a game in coloured clothes. In pink tops and caps, the ground staff fanned out to deal with the dew during breaks. There were no deejays cranking it up between overs but a band did a medley at tea. It stopped somewhat suddenly as India cricket legends did a lap of the Eden. The amphitheatre reproduced the ‘Sachin, Sachin’ chant, after exhortations by the emcee, for Sachin Tendulkar who along with Dilip Vengsarkar, Anil Kumble, Kapil Dev, Mohammad Azharuddin, Rahul Dravid, Gundappa Viswanath, Farokh Engineer, Rahul Dravid, Shanta Rangaswamy, Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami went around the park before the players trooped out for the final session.
After stumps, badminton coach and former All England winner Pullela Gopichand, world champion PV Sindhu, boxing world champion Mary Kom and tennis ace Sania Mirza were felicitated. “It is great that in a city that oozes sport, Sourav has used the occasion to honour sportspersons across disciplines. It is a gesture that could come only from a sportsman,” said Gopichand. Fake replicas of India’s ODI shirts were being sold around the stadium and the stands began to fill from late morning. Before Sheikh Hasina, the Bangladesh Prime Minister, and Mamata Banerjee, the West Bengal Chief Minister, walked out to meet the teams, nearly 40,000 had taken their seats.
The prime minster and chief minister rang the Eden bell. The teams came out with each player being accompanied by a child in a pink tee—all of them HIV+ and from Offer, a Kolkata NGO. Forty of them came to Eden days after Virat Kohli visited them and got a bouquet of 254 roses, for his unbeaten double-century against South Africa in Pune. Twenty breast cancer survivors were felicitated by Sourav Ganguly, the BCCI president, Tendulkar, Kumble, Dravid and VVS Laxman.
After Mominul Haq won the toss, with a gold coin made for the occasion, and chose to bat, Ishant Sharma ran into history from the High Court End to left-hander Shadman Islam. When India batted, one hour after the first break, the stadium looked fuller—the official turnout was 60,000. When Al-Amin Hossain dropped Rohit Sharma at deep fine-leg, the roar split the night. The Eden also shook when Virat Kohli walked out after Rohit Sharma fell. A Mexican Wave followed thousands turning on torches on mobile phones—a first during a Test in India.
Having been introduced to Tendulkar by Ganguly, Prime Minister Hasina was settling down for what looked like it would be a good afternoon. So would have the array of former Bangladesh cricketers, all in bright green blazers, invited for this Test. That feeling lasted all of 6.3 overs. By lunch, Bangladesh were 73/6. If the Eden needed a distraction, it was provided by a trip down memory lane by Tendulkar, Kumble, Harbhajan Singh and Laxman during lunch. “There couldn’t have been a better venue than Eden,” said Kumble who took 6/12 in the Hero Cup final in 1993. “I feel like I am at home here,” said Harbhajan who took the first Test hattrick by an Indian here in 2001.
“Sourav will always be my captain even though I have played under others,” said Harbhajan and got a ringing endorsement from the terraces. 2001 changed the India dressing room, said Tendulkar referring to the Test against Australia here where Laxman scored 281, Dravid 180 and India won after following-on. Friday felt like a day when Test cricket changed in India.