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Dalmiya pitches in to settle issue

Calcutta: Less than twenty-four hours after expressing his desire to resign, Eden Gardens curator Prabir Mukherjee softened his stance and was back as the pitch in-charge for the upcoming India-England Test, beginning on Wednesday.

An hour-long meeting with Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) president Jagmohan Dalmiya, in the presence of other CAB officials, on Saturday afternoon, convinced the veteran curator to change his mind and continue supervising the preparation of the pitch.

The meeting took place at Dalmiya’s residence.

Mukherjee’s ill-health was the main reason behind his unwillingness to work, Dalmiya categorically mentioned in his interaction with the media after the meeting.

“Prabirda was unwell… He had high blood pressure… That’s the reason he wanted to stay away from the ground. Nevertheless, the meeting was a successful one and Prabirda will be back in charge of the Eden pitch from today (Saturday) itself,” Dalmiya said.

The CAB president confirmed that he didn’t get any official resignation letter from Mukherjee. “I think the issue is unnecessarily being blown out of proportion… I got nothing in writing as such, which suggests he wants to quit,” he said.

Despite the medical reasons that are being cited, it appears that the state association were uncomfortable with the 83-year-old’s sharp criticism of India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s demand for a square turner at the Eden.

That might well be the reason behind Mukherjee’s reluctance to continue as the curator of the prestigious venue.

On Saturday evening — after the parley with Dalmiya — Mukherjee’s presence at the Eden was for just about three hours or so. Ashish Bhowmick, the East Zone representative on BCCI pitches and grounds committee, was left to oversee the pitch on the day.

“At present, Prabirda’s physical condition is such that he cannot keep working for hours, as he used to do,” Dalmiya said, adding: “Problems arose since there was too much of talking... I’ve told him not to speak (to the media) any further.”

A senior CAB official, too, pointed out that Mukherjee’s diatribes against Dhoni and the Board as the root cause of all controversies.

“The unnecessary talk from his side only worsened the situation... Quite rightly, he has been gagged,” the CAB official said.

Earlier in the morning, the controversy got exacerbated with Mukherjee re-directing his tirade towards Dhoni.

“It’s immoral to tamper with the pitch as per the captain’s liking. I’ve never done it and won’t do so either,” he told reporters.

“I am of the belief that cricket is a batsman oriented game. Cricket should be played on a wicket that is firm and has even bounce.

“People spend money for a five-day Test match... But Dhoni has asked for a square-turner so that the match ends in three days or so! You’re robbing people of two more days of action,” Mukherjee added.

What followed thereafter was sheer drama as Mukherjee, according to sources, handed over his resignation letter to one of the CAB officials who visited his residence to pacify him.

Mukherjee’s refusal to budge had the official left with no other option but to fall back on the administrative abilities of Dalmiya to sort the matter out.

The BCCI, which was extremely peeved with Mukherjee’s attitude, is keeping a tab on the developments at the CAB. It was learnt that secretary Sanjay Jagdale spoke to Dalmiya on Saturday evening to enquire whether the fiasco had been resolved or not.

Talking about the current status of the pitch, it appears that pruning has already begun with very little grass visible.

The greenish tinge still present at the centre too might no longer be there given Team India’s preferences.