The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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At last, Eden sits up for fans
- Pushed by cops, cricket bosses stir on spectator comfort

Calcutta, Nov. 9: Many edge-of-the-seat matches have been played at the Eden Gardens but spectators there have not known what it means to sit on the edge, chewing nails.

The posture could soon become a reality with police, for some odd reason, waking up to the fact that the Eden ' India's largest cricket ground and very much the game's capital with Jagmohan Dalmiya being the reigning king ' is not a very comfortable place for the spectator.

Four days before the so-called goodwill match against Pakistan, the police have thrown a spectator comfort rulebook at the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), the organiser.

Edge-of-the-seat watching may still not be possible come Saturday ' simply for lack of leg space ' but at least some spectators won't have to shrink sideways, as they are used to. The width of the seat is being expanded as part of the comfort regime. All the work will, however, not be complete before Saturday's showdown.

A few hours after police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty visited the Eden today to check out the arrangements, the police slammed the CAB for ignoring spectator safety.

'The CAB must understand that the cricket watcher is much more sophisticated now and his requirements are far finer,' said Sanjay Mukherjee, the deputy commissioner of police (headquarters).

'It is the joint responsibility of the CAB and the police to address the spectator's needs.'

Strange, though, that the realisation has dawned after spectators have got used to gigantic Eden's dwarfing proportions ' the ground seats close to 100,000, but has no space for the individual.

Stranger still that Dalmiya, who heads the CAB and is very much the czar (a little shaky of late) of Indian cricket, agreed readily to follow the new rules for seating and other arrangements. For decades, the cricket authorities have squeezed every penny and one extra out of the space the ground provides without paying heed to spectator comfort.

'We have no problem in going by the city police directive,' said Dalmiya after a visit to the chief minister's secretariat where he had gone to deliver invitations to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and his bureaucrats for the match.

'Spectators' safety is their concern, so we will have to listen to the police,' he said.

The police have laid down guidelines, called 'Essential rules for the safety of spectators', for the CAB to comply with.

'The CAB has been told that from now we will be responsible for any trouble during a match at the stadium. Since we are going to stick our neck out, we want the CAB to go by our directive,' Mukherjee said.

For the first time in Eden's history, the police have also asked the CAB to obtain a written permission to stage the match.

Police bosses have been engaged in an invisible tussle over the past week with the CAB on spectator safety. The police believe the CAB charges a high entry fee against poor services and an inadequate comfort level.

'They (spectators) deserve more, so we have come forward to play a role on behalf of the spectators and protect their right to quality viewing,' they said.

The new rules have been framed on the basis of reports of two commissions that had been set up in 1967 after the violence-marred India-West Indies match and in 1996 following the vandal-disrupted India-Sri Lanka game of the World Cup.

'Initially, they (CAB) were resisting us' but they relented after we made ourselves clear to them,' said a senior officer.

As a result of the police initiative, the seating capacity at the Eden ' after dismantling of some 1,000 seats ' will stand at 88,000. The seats have been dismantled to widen the seating space for each spectator.

For the first time, the water reservoirs were cleaned in front of the police. All 300 taps were kept open for eight hours without interruption to see whether the capacity of the reservoirs is enough to serve drinking water to spectators during a match.

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