Ahead of the first Test between India and the West Indies, Sachin Tendulkar’s 199th, Eden Gardens faces uncertainty over the condition of its outfield. The first three days of the Bengal-Baroda Ranji Trophy match have gone by without a single ball bowled, despite the fact that the city has witnessed two days of sunshine. On Day One of the match, the ground was waterlogged due to a heavy downpour the day before. The rain, however, relented by Sunday morning. Over the next two days, umpires K Srinath and P Jayapal and match referee Manu Nayar deemed the ground conditions unplayable.
“We too want the match to start. Problem is that on Day One the ground was under ankle-deep water and a lot of that had seeped underneath. The groundstaff are trying their best but the outfield is still very slushy — a little too dangerous for play to start,” Nayar said.
It looks like play is unlikely on Day Four as well. “The amount of rainfall the city has experienced last week, we need at least four days of clear sunshine to make the ground match ready,” said curator Prabir Mukherjee.
Asked if heavy rain ahead of the first Test, which starts on November 6, could cause a similar situation, he said: “Can’t help it.”
According to Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) treasurer Biswarup Dey, the ground’s drainage system was overhauled in 2011, but admitted that it didn’t match up to the best stadiums in the country. “Heritage stadiums can never match the ultra-moderns in terms of facilities. When we renovated the stadium before the 2011 World Cup, we had to ensure that our heritage structure was not compromised,” he said.
The pitch is another area of concern. The Ranji match was originally scheduled to be played at the Jadavpur University campus ground in Salt Lake but was shifted to Eden Gardens as per the BCCI’s instructions. The pitches at Eden were relaid at the end of last season and the Board didn’t want an untested surface for the Test.
Surprisingly, the centre strip is not being used for the Ranji fixture. “I decided not to use the centre pitch to save it from wear and tear before the Test match,” said Mukherjee.