ICC World Cup 2023: Ganguly’s 'dada' leading race to make Eden ready
We earlier hosted Pakistan, so it is nothing new to us, says the CAB president
Snehasish Ganguly, the former Bengal batter who had forced himself into national reckoning in the late Eighties, had for long lived under the shadows of his younger and famous brother Sourav Ganguly. All that, however, is set to change as the somewhat reticent Snehasish has emerged as the face of the organising body for the five ICC World Cup matches at the historic Eden Gardens later this year — including the second semi-final.
It’s after 27 years that the hallowed turf will be hosting a semis of the 50-overs World Cup — long after the ill-fated 1996 semi-final between India and Sri Lanka, which was abandoned due to crowd trouble and later awarded to the island nation. The last time India hosted the showpiece in 2011, Eden had to suffer the humiliation of having the high-profile India-England match pulled away from the city for the venue not ‘’being ready.’’
This time around, the historic venue will be hosting its first match on October 28 between Qualifier 1 and Bangladesh, followed by Pakistan versus Bangladesh on October 31, India vs South Africa on November 5, England vs Pakistan on November 12 and the second semi-final on November 16.
Interestingly enough, there is a caveat in the World Cup fixtures released on Tuesday which says that if both India and Pakistan qualify for semis, then it will be played in Kolkata. However, if it’s only the host nation in the top four, then Rohit Sharma & Co will be in action at the Wankhede.
A potential India-Pakistan game, that too during the festive season of the Pujas in Kolkata can be quite a security and logistical nightmare, but Snehasish — president of Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) since last year — put up a brave face at a crowded media conference on Tuesday evening. ‘’If that happens, we are confident and ready to host any big match given to us. Security will not be a problem as Kolkata Police is one of the best,’’ he said.
‘’We earlier hosted Pakistan, so it is nothing new to us. We are up for the challenge and ready to accept it. We will give our best in making everything possible to make the stadium and the facilities world-class," he said. The last time Eden hosted an India-Pakistan game was a league encounter at the 2016 T20 World Cup, played before choc-a-bloc stands.
Sensing during the Covid-19 pandemic that the venue needs a makeover if they were to stage a serious bid for the World Cup game, the previous regime of CAB (which had Snehasish as the secretary and Abhisek Dalmiya as the president) had started putting a blueprint in place since last year. The plans included changing the floodlights into LED ones, interiors at the clubhouse premises like the hospitality areas, media centre, the hanging Press box and two of the blocks which are in need of a complete overhaul.
The mood at the Eden was distinctly upbeat on Tuesday with the venue bagging the semis, which was destined to go Chennai’s way even two weeks back. ‘’When I met Mr Jay Shah (BCCI secretary) during the Women's Premier League in Mumbai, I convinced him about the fantastic facilities at the Eden Gardens and the renovations and upgrades we are doing. I also assured him that the renovation will be fully completed much ahead of the World Cup. I even showed him the design and the way we are going to remodel parts of the stadium,’’ Ganguly said.
‘’He (Shah) was happy to see our progress and assured us of big and high-profile games. I want to thank him again and make the games at Eden a success,’’ he said. The first round of joint inspection by the ICC and BCCI is expected to take place after July 17 and CAB wants to put its best foot forward.
It will be quite a race against time though!