Bob Taylor contemplates a ‘bet’ at Eden. (Sushovan Sircar)
The last time he was at the Eden Gardens, he had the best seat in the house. But being relegated to the last row of Block L three decades later wasn’t the reason Bob Taylor looked morose midway through the Alastair Cook masterclass that buckled India into submission.
Former England wicketkeeper Taylor, 71, was worried about losing a sweepstake contest involving a group of 15 friends who bet on how many runs would be scored on a particular day of a Test. The prize at stake? Rs 3,000.
Taylor’s prediction for Day II of the Eden Test was 293 runs. India and England together scored 259 that day.
Metro engaged the 57-Test veteran from Derbyshire, currently in India as the manager of a cricket-loving touring team he calls the “Wavy Navy”, in a freewheeling chat on everything from playing at Eden to Gundappa Vishwanath calling him back following a contentious dismissal in the 1980 Jubilee Test.
Eden the cauldron
I probably had the best seat in the house back in 1981. I was behind the stumps, keeping to the likes of Ian Botham and Derek Underwood. I remember not a single seat was empty. I was told that there was a crowd of over 90,000 and that does psychologically affect the opposition. The atmosphere was electric.
Now the stadium indeed looks swanky and very modern but there are far too many restrictions on us spectators. We can neither walk to the other stands, nor are we allowed to get something as harmless as newspapers into the ground. It feels claustrophobic at times. Most of all, I really miss the enthusiasm of the packed galleries.
Eden most certainly has a special significance for all cricket lovers in England. Many of the people in our group decided to come primarily because Eden is hosting one of the matches.
Botham the bloke
I have always been a pure wicketkeeper and not much of a batsman. So I am thankful to Ian Botham for being such a great all-rounder, allowing a wicketkeeper like me to be selected purely for my abilities behind the stumps.
Moreover, there have been few characters as entertaining and flamboyant as him. I remember well how during that Eden Test, Derek Underwood, the great spinner, was fielding at long on and got intimidated by the constant taunts from the spectators behind him. Botham asked him to come to the slips and he went to the boundary, where he started shaking his hips and dancing. The crowd loved it and Botham instantly managed to get the spectators to calm down.
Vishy the gentleman
I don’t think such a thing would happen today. I remember clearly that Kapil Dev was bowling to me. Botham was at the other end and it was the 1980 Jubilee Test in Mumbai.
I went on the front foot to defend a swinging delivery and my bat hit the pad. The ball missed my bat by at least six inches and went into keeper Syed Kirmani’s gloves. Kapil made a half-hearted appeal and I did not even look at the umpire. Suddenly I saw Vishy, (Sunil) Gavaskar and (Dilip) Vengsarkar running towards me from the slips. It was only when Vishy told me that the umpire had raised his finger that I realised I was given out. “Well, I will go then,” I told him. Since he was in the slips and saw what had happened, he asked me to wait and went up to the umpire. After a couple of minutes, he came up to me and said that he had spoken to the umpire and that I should continue to bat. I went on to score 43, I think, and we won by 10 wickets.
Mother the bowler
I have very fond memories of meeting Mother Teresa when I was here as a cricketer. She initially did not know who we were. When she was told that we were members of the English cricket team, she smiled and exclaimed “O! Cricket!” and performed a bowling action to show us she liked the game.
I wish I could meet her again.