Home > Cricket > Far from paradise at Eden Gardens

Far from paradise at Eden Gardens

It was announced this Thursday (27th January) that Kolkata’s Eden Gardens stadium will not be ready for the World Cup match between India and England on 27th February. Consequently a new venue is being sought and will be announced by the International Cricket Council (ICC) tomorrow (31st January). It remains to be seen whether the ICC will make a show of India and give the match to Sri Lanka or Bangladesh.

Eden Gardens has been undergoing major renovation in preparation for the World Cup and there has been much speculation as to whether the stadium will be ready for some time. Photographs published earlier this month showed a structure covered in scaffolding and which, quite frankly, looked far from ready to host a match between two of cricket’s major forces. India is co-hosting the tournament (along with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka) and has known this since April 2006. This gives rise to the question of why, nearly five years on, one of the world’s most iconic sporting venues is still not ready.

Work at Kolkata's Eden Gardens stadium continues in an attempt to get it ready for the ICC World Cup. (This image is the property of Deshakalyan Chowdhury/AFP/Getty Images)

Thursday’s announcement is a major embarrassment for all concerned, but particularly the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) and, to a lesser extent, the ICC.

The ICC was criticised for its decision to award the tournament to India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka with many arguing that Australia and New Zealand should have been given the opportunity to host a major cricket tournament for the first time since 1992. With India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka having hosted the tournament in 1996, many felt that Australia and New Zealand had been unfairly overlooked in favour of the greater profits promised by the BCCI. This criticism intensified further when, in 2009, the ICC had to take the step of removing hosting rights from Pakistan after the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore. Thursday’s admission only adds fuel to the critics’ fire.

ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat admitted: “All venues had ample time in which to prepare for World Cup matches. Regrettably, Eden Gardens has not made sufficient progress to justify the level of confidence required to confirm that the venue would be ready in time.”

The CAB pleaded with the ICC to grant a ten day extension to allow them to complete the necessary work. The request was seconded by BCCI president Shashank Manohar, but rebuffed by the ICC, with Lorgat telling ESPNcricinfo: “The ICC could not accommodate the request.” Not only have the CAB and BCCI lost credibility here, they have also lost a marquee match and no doubt plenty of Rupees. The other group games, involving South Africa, Ireland, the Netherlands, Kenya and Zimbabwe, should still go ahead as planned, but none of the matches is afforded the same prestige as India versus England. One must also spare a thought for fans who planned to watch the match at what is arguably the best place in the world to watch a cricket match and who must now make alternative arrangements or, more probably, miss out.

The fear is that the problems experienced in Kolkata are indicative of a more widespread issue. Five of the thirteen venues across the three countries still face final inspections by World Cup Tournament Director Professor Ratnakar Shetty and his team. The ICC announced on the 15th January that five venues were “slightly behind schedule” with particular concern being expressed over Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium; the venue for the final.

Why have such problems not been addressed before now? It is unclear why, but whilst it is unacceptable that the India-England match needs to be moved, things should be put in to perspective.

India is still very much a developing country with very little experience at hosting such events. Those who argue that this is a reason not to award it major tournaments fail to recognise that with experience comes proficiency. Some of what has been written is unacceptable and unfounded. There have been mutterings on several message boards of an inherent laziness and inefficiency on the subcontinent, whilst others have cited a reputed track record of disorganisation. The main weapon in the arsenal of these vehement critics? Last year’s Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

It is impossible to deny that there were issues in the build up to the event, particularly with the athletes’ accommodation, but what the critics fail to point out is that the games eventually went off problem-free. India proved its ability to host a successful and entertaining sporting event and could very well do so again

Those here in England may want to hold off on criticising host nations. The bid to host the football World Cup was an unmitigated disaster which saw the Prime Minister grovelling to a smug old man from Switzerland and the current furore surrounding the post-games future of London’s Olympic Stadium hardly paints a picture of a competent and well-organised host nation.

It may well transpire that the World Cup is a disaster, but let us wait and see. More likely we will be speaking in April of a great tournament put on by three fantastic, cricket obsessed countries.

Categories: Cricket
  1. harpie
    January 30, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    A thoroughly good article as always. As an Indian, I must express my sadness that India have failed to get this venue ready in time, as it is one of the best in the country, as you have correctly identified. I think the problem actually arises in the “Indian Mentality” that there is no great hurry to get it done way before the deadline, but, rather, leave it until the last minute and it will all get sorted. Unfortunately, this does not wash well with those who are investing their reputations in your ability to host a tournament, which is why this was inevitable.

    More generally, I think the World Cup is a flawed event in its format: two groups of 7 teams, followed by quarter-finals, etc. The first month of the tournament is essentially a non-event with the top 4 teams in each group being a formality. Do not expect a repeat of the last World Cup with heavyweights India and Pakistan being knocked out in the group phase; the only thing which is not certain is if the Bangies can finish above the Windies in their group.
    When the quarter-finals start, the tournament will start in earnest, I just hope that people will still be interested in the event and that it will not be the beginning of the end for ODIs, with T20s taking their place.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s