The Eden Gardens in Kolkata is packed for a Test match and fans were hunting for tickets in the Maidan Area. There cannot be a better scenario for Test cricket, which is struggling for “commercial” survival.
As India played their first-ever day-night Test on home soil, the ticket outside the Eden Gardens was selling at 500% premium.
This is the first occasion since 2001 when India had rallied from the follow on to defeat Australia that the historical Eden is packed to the capacity for a Test match. Spectators, a lot of them clad in pink, thronged the iconic stadium, making for the kind of carnival-like atmosphere that is now seen only in limited-overs games or the Indian Premier League.
First, four days of the Test are already fully sold out. Given the absolute domination by Indian new ball trio of Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma and Mohd Shami it remains to be seen if the match will go into the fourth day.
At the BC Roy Clubhouse, it was a pink carpet welcome for the invited dignitaries, which included the two greats of Indian sport — cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar and Olympic hero Abhinav Bindra — among a host of others.
From the 50-odd groundsmen in pink-colored clothing to a giant pink balloon hovering over the Eden sky, it was a carnival-like atmosphere that greeted anyone who cared to walk into the Eden Gardens.
It was a party in pink at the ‘City of Joy’ as India began its tryst with Day-Night Tests in front of political bigwigs, a galaxy of sports stars and a sell-out crowd, which ensured that Sourav Ganguly’s promise of a spectacle lived up to its hype.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee rang the Eden Gardens Bell ahead of the toss here on Friday but it was the famously enthusiastic Kolkata fans, who gave the match its character.
The chief guests – Hasina and Mamata – entered the stadium five minutes before toss, escorted by the Cricket Association of Bengal secretary Avishek Dalmiya.
A police band welcomed the duo at the ladies greeted the two teams.
There was a ceremonial silver coin for the toss. But the CAB had to cancel its plan to have paratrooper fly-in and hand-deliver a pink ball each to both the captains as the authorities had not given necessary permission till late last evening.
Hasina and Mamata, along with the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, spoke to both the teams’ players. Also present were some former Bangladesh players, who played in their country’s first Test.
The players present from the neighboring country included their first Test captain Naimur Rahman, Mohammed Mahmudul Hasan, Maharab Hossain, Mohammed Hasibul Hussain, Shahriar Hossain Biddut, Kazi Habibul Bashar and Mohammed Akram Khan.
Former Indian cricketers in attendance included Sadagopan Ramesh, Saba Karim, Sunil Joshi, Ajit Agarkar, Venkatesh Prasad, Kapil Dev, Dilip Vengsarkar, Mohammed Azharuddin, K Srikkanth, Farokh Engineer and Chandu Borde.
Sports stars from other sports who showed up at BCCI’s invitation included Abhinav Bindra, Pullela Gopichand, P V Sindhu, Sania Mirza, and MC Mary Kom.
Kolkata and sweets go hand in hand and it was little surprise that a one such shop made Sondesh in pink colour, something that was shared by Ganguly on his official Twitter handle.
“Sweets go pink in Kolkata,” Ganguly had tweeted.
City’s important landmarks – the Shahid Minar, the tallest building ’42’ and some Kolkata Municipality Corporation Parks – were illuminated with pink lights.