|Boycott at Pailan World School on Tuesday. Picture by Bishwarup Dutta
Calcutta, Dec. 4: If Mamata Banerjee wants unbiased expert comments, she should invite guests to Calcutta and hope that they do a Justice Markandey Katju.
Geoffrey Boycott passed the Katju test with flying colours today, reminding a minister that “you’ve got to fix your roads. It takes forever to reach anywhere”.
Justice Katju, the Press Council chairman, had last week advised the chief minister to change her ways.
Here’s a running commentary on how the home truth that every Calcuttan suffers daily played itself out before the Mamata government today.
The ground: Pailan World School, near Joka.
The occasion: Inauguration of a row of concrete cricket pitches.
The star: Geoffrey Boycott, 22 Test centuries under his belt and the priceless “Prince of Calcoota” on his lips.
Team Mamata: Transport minister Madan Mitra and youth affairs minister Aroop Biswas.
Madan and Aroop accompany Boycott on a stroll across the school’s playground. As the three walk, Madan tells photographers: “Tomra ei chhobi gulo debe kintu (You have to give me these pictures).”
A few moments later, Boycott tells Madan: “Lovely weather. I think we’re going to have a great Test.”
Madan: “Yes, it is best from November to March.”
They reach the nets. Boycott bowls a couple of under-arm deliveries to Aroop. Youth minister is beaten on both occasions.
Madan comes one down and ably defends the first ball.
Boycott: He is a better batsman than the other gentleman (Aroop).
Madan: I used to play cricket regularly at one time.
Inauguration done, the party moves to a stage built next to the cricket field.
Madan is invited to speak.
Madan (looking at Boycott, who is seated a few feet away): Mr Boycott, you are telling that Dada is the Prince of Calcutta. I don’t like to disagree. But to us, you are the king of international cricket….
You will be happy to know that our leader, Mamata Banerjee, is the most popular leader in the world. According to international ranking standard she is now rank 20. According to Time magazine, she is in 100.
Madan, turning to photographers, adds: My photographer friends, I have never asked you for anything but today I request that you give me a copy of the photo of Geoffrey Boycott and me…. Mr Boycott, when I come to the UK, I will give you a copy of our photograph.”
It is time for questions.
A guest asks Boycott: If you ever decide to contest elections here, you will have no difficulty getting votes. However, do you have any plans of doing something for Bengal and for Calcutta in the future? There are two ministers sitting next to you.
Boycott: You’ve got to fix your roads. It takes forever to reach anywhere.
The smiles plastered on Madan and Aroop, seated next to Boycott on the dais, fade and they deadpan.
Boycott: A few years back, I was returning from the golf course to the hotel and the… taxi of yours that I got into hit three cars on the way… the driver even got into a fight with one of them. Goodness, I can’t imagine this happening in England….”
Thank your lucky stars, Boycott. “A few years back” means the Left was to blame. More important, you cannot be called the CPM’s “B-team” out to spoil Mamata’s dream to transform Calcutta into London.
The 15km ride from an Alipore hotel to Pailan, on the southern fringes of the city, apparently took Boycott an eternity. A journalist who had accompanied him on the trip said: “He kept asking ‘how much longer, how much longer’? So, I started talking cricket to try and distract him.”
On September 12, The Telegraph had shown that the average speed on some of the city’s most travelled roads was 7km an hour or less.