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Ted loses toss on Test-eve

She wants to be there for the toss. He wants to sleep a little longer.

Former England captain Ted Dexter may be loath to wake up early and head for the Eden Gardens at 8.30 on a nippy Wednesday morning but he doesn’t have a choice because wife Susan can’t be dissuaded from being there in time for the toss between Alastair Cook and M.S. Dhoni.

Susan, 74, is used to watching captains at the toss, first as the daughter of Briton Tom Longfield, who had captained Bengal to its maiden Ranji Trophy triumph in the year she was born, and then as the wife of Edward Ralph Dexter, who made his debut as England captain at the Eden Gardens in 1961 and went on to lead his country in 29 more Tests.

“Susan follows the game more closely than me nowadays,” the former Sussex all-rounder is happy to concede.

The couple are in town to attend Ted’s joint felicitation with Nari Contractor, the oldest living players to have led their countries in a Test at Eden, as part of the Cricket Association of Bengal’s commemoration of 80 years of Test cricket at the ground.

Susan quips that she is back in the city of her birth for the cricket too, especially the batting of Sachin Tendulkar, Dhoni and Alastair Cook, not necessarily in that order.

“I don’t want to miss even a bit of the first day of the Test. It is always a very important day,” says the lady, who spent the first eight years of her life in India before being sent to England for schooling. But she kept coming back on vacation till she was 15, when Longfield retired from his job with Andrew Yule and moved back to England for good.

Susan remains in love with the city, her favourite memories being of playing tennis at her club and soaking in the sights, sounds and smells of old Calcutta.

“I think the people of Calcutta are wonderful. I have fond memories of the chirping of the kite bird and the smoke of the earthen oven. I still like the tuberose, the curries, the old buildings… I could go on and on and on,” says Susan, who spent her early years in a Camac Street residence.

No less precious are the memories of watching her father bat or run up to bowl his military medium-pace, mostly at Eden.

“I obviously have no memories of the Ranji win but I remember my father talking about it. He used to say that was the first year when Indians were included in the Bengal team; earlier, all the players would be English. There was a tall Indian fast bowler who picked up a lot of wickets,” Susan reminisces.

The one unhappy cricket memory associated with Calcutta is of an “accident”. As a 14-year-old, she had been asked by her brother, two years her junior, to join him and his friends in a game of cricket because they were short of players.

“I bowled a bouncer to my brother, he could not get out of the way and was hit in the mouth. As it turned out, I never played cricket again!” she recalls.