When 8,000 raucous Calcuttans filed into the Eden Gardens on Wednesday, domestic cricket got a giant leg-up because no more than 500 come to watch Ranji Trophy matches on a good day.
Chants of “Bengaaal Bengaaal” echoed across the stands as the home side batted first against Railways in their first outing at the Ranji quarters in five years.
“There used to be larger crowds way back in 2000-2001 but not after that. Eden has shown today that a ground can fill up not just for IPL matches but also for Ranji,” said Bengal skipper Laxmi Ratan Shukla.
Eight thousand! He had to be reminded. “This does not happen anywhere, even for a Ranji final. I feel blessed and proud to be a Bengal cricketer,” he went on.
It must have been a first even for seniors like Wriddhiman Saha who made his first-class debut in 2007.
The fans were seated at the Club House and two blocks on either side of it that were open for them.
The noise perhaps didn’t carry to the middle initially because Bengal lost their first two wickets for three runs before two youngsters, 18-year-old Abhimanyu Easwaran and 22-year-old Sudip Chatterjee with a collective experience of six matches, put on 163 runs for the third wicket.
The loudest noisemakers were the young lungs of school teams — St. Xavier’s, Calcutta Boys and other city institutions — enjoying their first first-class match on a ground.
“Our coach (Biswajit Bhowmick) advised us to attend all five days of the match. Eden was very different from what it looks like during international or IPL matches. It’s a good outing for us. We discussed fielding placements and bowling on one side of the wicket… noted the patience the batsmen showed,” said Uddhav Bhagat, captain of the St. Xavier’s Collegiate School under-14 team.
Teammate Tushar Richard Majumdar of Class VIII spent some time with his father businessman Prasenjit, an Eden regular.
Prasenjit described a “picturesque” Sunil Gavaskar square drive at Eden, amid the mayhem at the last session when Bengal lost quick wickets. For someone who has grown seeing Gavaskar doing only commentary, Tushar’s idea of a perfect cover drive rests on Virat Kohli’s blade.
Aspiring cricketer Tapabrata of Ichhapur was there with parents Tapan and Gita. Mainak, 12, of Tollygunge has come with mother Madhumita Das and her friend Baishali Chatterjee. “This is an extension of his coaching,” said Madhumita.
Boys of the National High School danced with a placard proclaiming “Bengal will win”. A group of 17 from Cathedral Mission put up an equally energetic show.
The Cricket Association of Bengal has decided to print more passes for Thursday.