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Kolkata's octogenarian 'gardener'

The Eden Gardens curator is a fiercely proud custodian of his turf - as MS Dhoni and his team found out recently

Siddhartha Talya

January 13, 2013

Comments: 51 | Text size: A | A

Eden Gardens curator supervises proceedings
Prabir Mukherjee: directing proceedings at Eden © Goutam Roy

In his 83 years, pitch curator Prabir Mukherjee has seen plenty of upheavals in the city of Kolkata, from the pre-Partition riots of 1946, to the state's counter-measures against Naxals in the 1970s, and the end of communist rule in West Bengal.

Recently he encountered turbulence closer to home, when there was much talk about his role as the chief curator at Eden Gardens during the third India-England Test. It resulted in a duel where his long-held principles were questioned and pressure was brought to bear on him to change. In the end, his resistance won out.

India wanted a square turner, Mukherjee gave them a track like the ones he has prepared in Kolkata throughout his tenure - "very firm, with even bounce". India lost, but it was the drama that preceded the Test - Mukherjee's outburst at being asked to change the nature of the pitch, then going on medical leave amid rumours he was pressed to resign, before returning to have his track ready in time - that sparked interest.

I meet him the day after the Test at 6.45am at Deshbandhu Park in north Kolkata after his morning walk - a routine he has maintained for 22 years, since he retired as an accounts officer with Southeastern Railway. As I sleepily wait outside the park's gate, I see Mukherjee, aka Prabirda, step out with an army of friends, geriatrics mostly, in dhotis and trackpants. He is easily the oldest among them.

"He's come from Bombay just to spend some time with me," Mukherjee tells his friends in Bengali as we are introduced. We drink sugarless tea as Mukherjee, wearing a white hat and black Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) tracksuit, talks, always energetic and cheerful.

The morning walk is usually also inspection time for Mukherjee, who is in charge of the club-level strip and field at Deshbandhu Park, one of three venues in Kolkata under his supervision; the others are Eden Gardens and the Jadavpur University Ground in Salt Lake.

His involvement with cricket administration and pitch preparation dates back to 1951-52 with Suburban Club, four years after an accident ended his playing days as a fast bowler and a football goalkeeper. "I was in bed for the whole of 1947, [because of] a motor car, just here, in front of my house," he says as we proceed to Salt Lake in a chauffeur-driven car the CAB has given him to travel to and from his ground inspections.

"Then Karthik Bose, the chief coach of Cricket Club of India and the chief coach of CAB, helped me. He was our idol in our younger days."

Mukherjee says Bose taught him the art of pitch-making. "If you are not honest to the purpose, you can't get this thing [pitch preparation]. It's not the money, [not about going] to England, Australia, or South Africa. What will they teach me? They don't know the ABCD of my climate, the soil condition. Every state has a different atmosphere and condition."

On our way to Salt Lake we stop at Balaram Mandir, owned by the Ramkrishna Mission, a socio-religious movement that Mukherjee is part of, together with several of his morning-walk companions. "I lost my wife and daughter in a space of six days six months ago," he says. "I never bow down to anyone, only my father and mother, maata and Ramkrishna." I begin to form a clearer picture of where he derives his stubbornness from. "My father told me to never adjust if someone's making things difficult."

Mukherjee's first stint at Eden Gardens came in 1964, after he became secretary of the Bengal National Railways Club. He moved to the CAB in 1979-80, went on to manage the Bengal and East Zone teams and served in an official capacity as secretary of the CAB committee. He prepared his first Test pitch at Eden Gardens more than two decades ago and helped make the pitch for the 1987 World Cup final. In an earlier interview Mukherjee said he was "not directly involved" with the pitch preparation for India-Sri Lanka 1996 World Cup semi-final, but described it as a "collective failure".

He is eager to remind me that since the 1990s only two out of 12 Tests at Eden Gardens have been drawn, and points out that Sachin Tendulkar scored his first hundred at the venue in the draw with West Indies in 2002.

But his proudest achievement in his six-decade long involvement with the game has nothing to do with his time as curator at Eden Gardens.

In 2002, the Jadavpur University Ground was allotted to the CAB. "The secretary asked me to have a look. From here to there, there was a huge concrete slab under all this. All around was a jungle - snakes and everything," Mukherjee says as we walk around the ground, which now has six practice wickets, a grass tub, and is part of a secluded campus, the main pitch covered in preparation for a Ranji Trophy game between Bengal and Railways.

"In those days they never used to speak to me in this fashion. Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Azharuddin, Ganguly, they never used to come and say all this nonsense" Mukherjee on never being asked for tailor-made pitches till Dhoni did so last year

In less than a year since he got charge of it, he had the ground ready to host its first Ranji Trophy one-day game, in February 2004.

So what are the key ingredients that go into making a good cricket pitch? "Good soil, good water, free of sand. Fresh water is required, that's why when you plant the grass, rain water is the best."

Our conversation inevitably moves to what he considers a good Test pitch. "My policy is to prepare a wicket which will be very firm, with even bounce, with good grass cover. If you don't want that much grass, you can request, and that request I can carry out. But you can't think that I'll make a square turner. That is not my job."

I ask him if other captains ever asked him to prepare turning tracks. "In those days they never used to speak to me in this fashion. Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Azharuddin, Ganguly, they never used to come and say all this nonsense. They'd say, 'Thoda sa aisa maddad karna, thoda sa moving [Give is a bit of help, a bit of movement].' That is okay.

"And what is the meaning of home advantage? The atmosphere, the ground conditions, you are used to it. That is home advantage. The nature of the pitch is not home advantage. What do you require to play good cricket? A firm, even-bounce wicket."

Mukherjee doesn't keep a diary or make notes, and isn't particularly good at remembering dates, but his cricketing memories are vivid. He fondly recalls being part of a packed house on the final day of the 1974 Test when West Indies collapsed against Bishan Bedi and Bhagwat Chandrasekhar after having looked good to wrap the game up.

Gavaskar and Pankaj Roy are his batting heroes, and Javagal Srinath's 13-wicket haul against Pakistan in a Test marred by crowd trouble, in 1999, is one of his favourite bowling performances at Eden Gardens.

His lasting memory as a curator is the famous win over Australia in 2001.

"On the fourth evening, [Sanjay] Jagdale was selector, he said, 'Dada, chhodna hai?' [Shall we declare?]" I said a lead of 300 was not enough for the Australian team. Score some more runs, give them a little time, then they'll think, 'We are Australians, we won 16 consecutive matches.' After lunch, everybody said it will be a tame draw. I said, 'Let us see.'"

The pitch that has seen so much history is an object of reverence for Mukherjee. "I won't allow anybody to smoke inside the playing arena. Otherwise you are insulting the game. A player will be permitted on the day of the match from the popping crease to the bowling crease. Only captain and coach will go to the pitch, without spikes." He bends, touches the floor and holds up the Bengal doob grass that "makes the ground so smooth".

Mukherjee cuts a figure of gentle paternal authority with the people who work alongside him on the Eden square. "Not staff, they are my family," he says.

"I believe 'chief curator' doesn't mean anything, it is simply a maali [gardener]. These are my guardians," he says in Bengali. "They look after me but then they also abuse me behind my back. Isn't that so?" he asks them with a smile. They respond with smiles.

Eden Gardens curator Prabir Mukherjee instructs the groundstaff
"I won't allow anybody to smoke inside the playing arena. Otherwise you are insulting the game" © Goutam Roy

The conversation turns to an upcoming Ranji match. "During the Ranji Trophy, we'll give them practice here," Mukherjee said, pointing to a pitch. "Give them a single net." One of his colleagues wonders if the side will object to receiving just one net.

"Those who can't score even 100 runs, I will tell them to go practise on the road. It will be better for you," he says referring to Bengal's defeat to Madhya Pradesh. "They were supposed to get six points here [against Gujarat]. They couldn't knock down five wickets in one day. Just a lot of big talk." He feels the same way about today's India team. Referring to Virender Sehwag's run-out on the first day of the Test against England, he says, "It's not the pitch, it is you."

Mukherjee thinks money is spoiling the game today, and it is easy to see why. It was only two years ago that he signed a paid contract with CAB, and he still lives in his century-old ancestral home in north Kolkata. The Bangladesh board offered him a two-year contract, which he turned down, but he chose to help free of charge when the country hosted the Under-19 World Cup in 2004.

"I am a poor man, I am not going to anybody, asking them to send me here, send me there. Needs are few. Five percent of Indians don't have two square meals a day."

As we head out of Eden Gardens, Mukherjee is greeted by some England fans who thank him for not preparing a square turner. As they ask for photographs with him, I prepare to leave. His parting words to me are no surprise: "Remember one thing, never bow down to anyone."

Siddhartha Talya is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by Harmony111 on (January 16, 2013, 10:51 GMT)

@GurSinghgur: Sad I wasted so much time on you. You are happy to read admissions in my points that don't exist and then you bases your whole argument on that straw man.

I did not drag PMs age anywhere. I did not give it too much imp except a passing reference. It is you who has given it so much imp cos u got nothing much else to base your points on.

And at least YOU admitted that other teams make pitches as per their needs - good, I take it as a +1 for me. And I take it as a +5 for me when you fail to see why Ind too should do so.

Cricket or wars are not fought on principles of equality but opportunistically. You win a war/match when you defeat the enemy/opponent and you do that by exploiting his weaknesses and maximizing ur potential strengths and better tactics/strategy.

Imagine the driver of a tank refusing to retreat his tank on the orders of his commander saying it was unethical for him to go back from battlefront.

Your view of Fair Play is fantasy, not real. Take Care buddy.

Posted by GurSinghgur on (January 16, 2013, 10:21 GMT)

Oh dear, Harmony 111, oh dear. Of course a TEAM should fight on its strength. But that does not mean the home GROUNDSMAN should fiddle his pitch to aid the home team. You think he should, on patriotic grounds, and that PM was being unpatriotic and wrong not to agree to do so (which is, by implication, at least a welcome if belated admission from you that PM indeed WAS being asked to produce a pitch that would aid India). India isn't the only place it happens, I know, but that doesn't make it any better. It is against the spirit of fair play, and if you can't see that, or the difference between war and cricket ... well, you can't. Maybe you think the (apparently Indian) writer of the original article equally short on patriotism?

Actually it was YOU who dragged in PM's age. As for my "not having much else to say", try re-reading the exchanges above; your charge is almost ludicrously untrue. I'll leave you now to your ignorant chauvinism and sad inability to argue straight.

Posted by Harmony111 on (January 16, 2013, 9:36 GMT)

@GurSinghgur: Do you deliberately pretend not to understand or is it natural?

Firstly, if Team A has fats bowlers and Team B has none then whose fault is it? If Team A's strength is fast bowling then should they plan to maximize its impact or not? Would it be wrong & unethical? Do you fight a battle on your strengths or on your weaknesses? I am absolutely shocked that you just can't see this obvious point. Tell me, when you passed out from college did you look for a job in the field related to your degree or outside it? Why? Wasn't it cos your degree was your expertise? So obvious.

And PM does not know he is an Indian and Ind were playing Eng in a Test. Thus his patriotism is doubtful or at least diluted. What kind of a person refuses to help his own country against another nation?

And show to me how a spin track would have been biased, had it been. What's with your Ind sportsmanship? What color that bird is? Is a fast n bouncy track example of sportsmanship?

U got no leg to stand.

Posted by Harmony111 on (January 16, 2013, 9:20 GMT)

@GurSinghgur: All you got now is a way to say nothing yet pretend as if you've said a lot. Nearly all of your comments have focused on my calling PM a 83 year old, which he is. Your failure to go beyond it is obvious. In fact you don't want to leav this point cos it is your safety jacket. Each time I make fresh point you go back to his age and then drag me there even when I've made it clear it was just a side remark, not my main point against PM. Had he been a 38 yr old I would've said the exact same things. And if you can't see that 83 is a no too big for age then I don't think you know much about human life. Keep flogging his age remark. I know you feel good doing it cos you can't say much else.

And you've hardly proven anything here. I could say I proved to you that your so n so comment clearly showed your were wrong and then I could feel good about it even though I'd done nothing of note.

You cudn't grasp Dhoni's explanation for spinning tracks - I told you yet u dint. Simple.

Posted by GurSinghgur on (January 16, 2013, 7:53 GMT)

Enough is enough. Let's suppose home side A has brilliant fast bowlers , and visitors B has none. Captain A orders a groundsman to prepare a pitch perfectly suited to fast bowlers. Captain B protests. And along comes a Mr Harmony (who just happens to be a fervent supporter of side A) saying "Whatever the request may have been from Captain A, it would have been the same for both A and B, so what's the problem?"

Now that wasn't the situation at Kolkata, agreed. But everybody except Harmony 111 knows that Dhoni's demand was made to suit India. Indeed Harmony's own first comment made it perfectly plain that even HE knew it--why else his disgraceful attack in that comment on P Mukherjee's alleged lack of patriotism? Not lack of clear sight or groundsman's skills, Harmony. Your ugly libels on PM prove even you knew Dhoni's aim. Re-read them, and you might even try withdrawing them.

Posted by GurSinghgur on (January 16, 2013, 0:50 GMT)

A final footnote, Harmony. You claim I offered no basis for my view that P Mukherjee was right to reject Dhoni's demand. In fact, I did so: at length:

1. I said a groundsman must be neutral, like umpires. You replied that PM--as an employee of the CAB, which is a constituent of the BCCI, which appoints Dhoni--was bound to go along with Dhoni. I ridiculed this. 2. When you also argued that anyway Dhoni's demand WAS neutral, I replied that "everyone (including you, to judge from your FIRST comment)" knows this to be untrue. And I later cited your own words, to prove that point.

You no doubt disagree with my reasoning. So be it. But it is nonsense to assert that I gave "no" reasons for my view. It's just taken me the entire paragraph above to set out the ones I gave, even in summary!

Still at least/last you've now given YOUR (claimed) reason for dragging in PM's age: merely alleged "inability to see things clearly". Not quite how your first, sneering comment described him, is it?

Posted by Harmony111 on (January 15, 2013, 23:13 GMT)

@GurSinghgur: Futile talking to you. Instead of giving anything concrete you simply stick to your usual style of saying YES or No to a point as per your convenience without saying anything in support and then you fele you have made a rebuttal. This is the 2nd time I am making this exact statement to you.

You have hardly answered any of my points TBH. Whatever the request may have been from Dhoni - it would have been the same for bot Ind and Eng, so what's the problem? Isn't a fast n bouncy pitch hailed as a sporting track and said that it was the same for both the sides? Can't you see the duplicity in standards here?

You really gave that example of breaking the law or cheating as a point? The 1st time you said anything substantial it was this weird point !!! You've not even proven if Dhoni's request was fair or not and you compare to a case of blatant cheating? Running short of proper points huh?

Define sportsmanship 1st then talk about it. We shall see if a spin track is in it...

Posted by GurSinghgur on (January 15, 2013, 21:44 GMT)

Harmony 111: If you can't see there's no parallel between an IBM office boy's status v an IBM director, and that of P Mukherjee v Dhoni, too bad. As I said, if you can't argue straight--I could have added "honestly"-- don't argue at all.

When India next tours Australia, and some Oz bowler is told by his captain to cheat any way he likes, so long as the umpires don't spot it, and it is spotted, and some Aussie hyperpatriot writes to Cricinfo to say "What has the bowler done wrong?", well, no doubt you will rush in to back this Aussie, arguing that the bowler was merely obeying his captain (who at least IS his "commander" as Dhoni is not P. Mukherjee's).

No, on second thoughts, maybe you won't. The last sentence of your outpourings reveals where your ideas come from: no concern for fair play, merely from an overdone love of your own country--a perfectly respectable feeling, until it becomes indeed overdone.

You stick to your--unIndian--notion of sportsmanship. I'll stick to mine.

Posted by Harmony111 on (January 15, 2013, 19:14 GMT)


What PM's employment with CAB/BCCI has got to do with ICC beats me. If you think making completely misplaced points is equivalent to rebuttals or even replies then pls don't try any further. If by chance you meant that CAB:BCCI::Ind:ICC then you should sip some more coffee.

You'd said ... " What I actually said was that PM was right in refusing Dhoni's demand." ---- Where is the basis of you saying this? You gave none. You say Yes to something and No to something without giving any reasoning and that means rebutting? Excellent.

I did not mention his age to say he was honorable or not. I'd said it in relation to his ability to make sense of things. Senility has a direct linkage to age. You can add 1+1 yourself now to see the point.

I'd also said that even if Dhoni had asked for a rank turner to assist ONLY Ind spinner he still would've been justified cos this was a Home Test so your whole castle goes down. You ignored this too.

Dhoni is IND's Captain i.e. MY CAPTAIN.

Posted by crindex on (January 15, 2013, 18:29 GMT)

The reason for MS Dhoni asking for a square turner is that a square turner is both result producing like such as the one produced at The Wankade for the 2nd test match between India and England in November. Square turner with a good bounce favors both seamers and spinners alike. So its only fair of Dhoni to have asked for a square turner from this old timer. Mr.Mukherjee is an old timer and so inflexible and out dated in thinking. Mr. Mukherjee has much to learn from Dhoni himself , who represents a new class of captains wanting results from boring test matches which usually gyrate towards a draw in the sub continent. Dhoni's asking for square turners make much sense when one looks at the number of drawn test matches in subcontinent pitches. What is wrong with asking for a test match pitch which would produce result ?

Posted by GurSinghgur on (January 15, 2013, 17:51 GMT)

I didn't answer your example of IBM? Oh no? You said: "the curator who owes his job to BCCI can't say he wont follow what the captain of the team picked by BCCI. Its a bit like an Officeboy of IBM India refusing to follow the instructions of a director of IBM Worldwide." I replied: "As for the idea that a CAB employee (paid, by the way, by his employers, not the BCCI) MUST obey the home captain---well, try that on the ICC."

I gave no reason for rejecting your whitewash of what Dhoni was after? Oh no? I cited your own allegation that "This man"--PM--"has no idea what a Nation means, this man does not know what Honour is, this man does not know what Cohesiveness is". And I commented "If that isn't a complaint that he didn't obey a demand that he act in a way to favour the Indian side, what is it?"

Quite agreed, 83 is old. So what? To repeat that is no answer to my point that honour "has no linkage with age whatever". Which it doesn't

If you can't argue straight, don't argue at all

Posted by Harmony111 on (January 15, 2013, 15:01 GMT)

@GurSinghgur: I don't know what else are you reading along with my comments cos there has been no change in my stand about this whole issue. In some comment of mine I may focus on some specific point but that does not mean my earlier comments or my stand has changed (unless explicitly mentioned).

I gave u the entire background of Dhoni's request yet you rejected it by a wave of your hand without giving any reason. Nice way of arguing, wow.

You kept totally quiet on my IBM example and then again said this curator had a choice in following/not following Dhoni's words? I keep giving points after points yet u stick to ur 1 point with no proper rebuttals. Nice way of arguing, wow.

83 is old by nearly all means save yours. Some would call him too old. Anyways, his age was just a side-point from me, you dwell too much on it cos u got nothing else to say. Nice way of arguing, wow.

CAB sidelined him and took another curator for that test - proof of what it thought of him.

Posted by GurSinghgur on (January 15, 2013, 14:04 GMT)

Harmony 111: What I actually said was that PM was right in refusing Dhoni's demand. Odd that you don't seem any longer to be defending your notion that not just he should have obeyed it but MUST. (Both of which are nonsense anyway). Instead you're still trying to make out that PM is too old. Not to be honourable, he isn't, which has no linkage with age whatever. Nor, in the judgment of his employers to be in charge of Eden Gardens, it seems.

And now you're asking us to believe--for the second time--that Dhoni was merely trying to get a neutral pitch fair to both sides. Come off it. How very odd that your original complaint against PM included the revealing phrase "this man has no idea what a Nation means, this man does not know what Honour is, this man does not know what Cohesiveness is". If that isn't a complaint that he didn't obey a demand that he act in a way to favour the Indian side, what is it?

Posted by Harmony111 on (January 15, 2013, 12:54 GMT)

@ GurSinghgur: What's PMs age got to do with it? There is a reason why ppl retire at the age of 60. Linkage is obvious.

It would be better if you were more informed before making such comments about Dhoni's requests. It is clear you've not read a word about this and are simply going as per the broken news that came out. Dhoni had said that he did not want the pitch to become a tool for the captain winning the toss and he did not want the team batting 4th to play on a badly broken wicket. But wear and tear is imperative, right? So what he wanted was a pitch that would help the spinners on all days so that winning the toss was not all that imp.

Based on this, I don't know how you say Dhoni was not right in making this request. Maybe you'd like to re-evaluate your stand now.

Mind you, even if Dhoni had wanted a spinning track to help his team he still won't have been wrong. What else is Home Advantage then? In Eng/SA the curator implicitly knows it but here PM wanted his 5 secs of fame

Posted by GurSinghgur on (January 15, 2013, 12:24 GMT)

Harmony 111: Oh come along. You want anyone to believe that Dhoni was demanding a "neutral" pitch? Why would he bother? The pitch is physically the same for both sides---at least until (and quite often later than) one captain wins the toss, and the other may fear his side will have to bat in the fourth innings on a pitch badly degraded. Dhoni was eager to get a pitch favourable to India's chances in the series, period. And everyone (including you, to judge from your FIRST comment) knows it. Not the first or only home captain with such wishes, but let's not pretend otherwise. As for the idea that a CAB employee (paid, by the way, by his employers, not the BCCI) MUST obey the home captain---well, try that on the ICC. Or anyone who likes fairness in sport. What PM's age has to do with all this, God knows. He may be a good groundsman or less good, but he is an honourable one. Which is what we're arguing about--and which you disapprove of. Your choice. Not mine.

Posted by Harmony111 on (January 15, 2013, 11:17 GMT)

@GurSinghgur: The umpire is paid for his services as per the ICC regulations. The umpire is not employed by the BCCI but goes through a process to get picked. Some of them make it to the Elite Panel of ICC. None of these are paid by the BCCI.

The curator on the other hand is an employee of CAB which is a constituent of BCCI. Moreover, this particular gentleman is 83 year old and when he started working as a curator he was 61 yrs old & retired. Hard to say how he got that job. Anyways, when Ind play Eng at home, the curator who owes his job to BCCI can't say he wont follow what the captain of the team picked by BCCI. Its a bit like an Officeboy of IBM India refusing to follow the instructions of a director of IBM Worldwide.

In any case, pls define "NEUTRAL"?? Dhoni did not want a pitch that magically helped Ind spinners only. The pitch would have been the same for both teams. Dhoni only wanted a pitch that would spin form Day 1 to EVEN things up. He didn't want home adv but EVEN adv.

Posted by GurSinghgur on (January 15, 2013, 10:41 GMT)

Somebody tell Harmony 111 that it is the PLAYERS' job to win or lose cricket matches. The groundsman should be neutral, just as the umpires should be--and the captain of the home team is no more his "commander" than I am or Harmony 111. Does Harmony 111 think umpire Kulkarni's decisions in the ongoing (15 Jan) ODI should favour India just because he is Indian?

Posted by Harmony111 on (January 15, 2013, 9:23 GMT)

@Nutcutlet: I don't know what has made ppl like you think that Ind does not like Tests anymore OR that BCCI is not too keen in promoting Tests anymore. I reckon that even if we take disjointed sets of T20/ODI/Test fans in India they would still be larger than the RoW put together. And regarding BCCI's lack of interest in Tests, Ind have played a large no of Tests in the last 2-3 years - both home and away. So can you pls show some basis for your belief or else you are simply spreading a canard.

I guess the shine of IPL covers everything. It's a bit like someone saying Eng football is all about MU cos most have not heard of any other team save Liverpool. Its a bit like Vegas in USA - or more generally the Adult Entertainment in USA. USA has other good things too but the very nature of the brighter thing hides the softer things.

Btw, EPL has clearly killed English National Football cos when was the last time Eng won Football WC? 1966. When did Eng make to Football WC F or SF? Now what?

Posted by Harmony111 on (January 15, 2013, 8:40 GMT)

1. This 83 year old, retired for 22 years so called unbiased man of high ethics says that ... "The nature of the pitch is not home advantage.". In 1 sentence he transposes the meaning of home advantage as it is understood universally.

2. Someone who perhaps never played any competitive cricket is being asked when to declare by a team's manager - well, I think either the manager was just being cordial or that this man is given more imp that is due to him.

3. Ofc the Eng fans would thank this man for helping them. Which team would not want such a curator for its opposition? This man has no idea what a Nation means, this man does not know what Honour is, this man does not know what Cohesiveness is. The Eng fans would naturally love him for what he did.

4. This man says he is just a gardener, refuses to follow the instructions of the commander who leads his national team and ppl call him as tough? What's the word you use for ppl who do not follow the orders of their Commander/Superior?

Posted by Nutcutlet on (January 15, 2013, 8:29 GMT)

@crindex. Please review your first sentence. For one man to be'singularly responsible' for the home side losing is manifestly absurd! Just possibly the toss & the skills of the players to adapt to the pitch on which they have been given to perform have quite a lot to do with India's defeats. Mind you, I do know that excuses for the underperforming Indian team are not in short supply. I would respectfully suggest that India's problems at Eden Gardens or elsewhere are far deeper than you perceive. Start with the cricketers themselves - there are several overpaid underperformers who need to address the slide that now characterises so much of Indian cricket. Then consider the priorities of your governing board of control & find out whether they really care about the national side, or do they rate their financial interests in the IPL as rather more important? I'd be interested in your reasoned response & look forward to it.

Posted by jimmy787 on (January 14, 2013, 23:47 GMT)

I agree with @9ST9 - The result was inevitable.

As for criticism about the pitch and curator, the match went into the 5th day, Cook scored 190, and there were 6 bowlers who took more than 3 wickets and there were also 7 fifties. 15 wickets were taken by the spinners, but that's what you'd expect on a typical sub continental wicket. Sounds like a pretty fair pitch to me unless I'm missing something here.

Posted by jimmy787 on (January 14, 2013, 22:38 GMT)

@Gururajan Ragothaman the logic in your comment makes no sense. MS Dhoni's wish was for a square turner, which in affect makes the game a bit of a lottery, creating the high likelihood that the game will be over in 2-3 days with any team having a chance of wining. I'm all for home conditions, with some character in the pitch as well, as long as it's fair to both bat and ball. Preparing a square turner is NOT fair to both bat and ball.MS Dhoni's logic was that because they have been outplayed by England, at least preparing a lottery pitch would give them a 50% chance of winning.

Posted by crindex on (January 14, 2013, 18:00 GMT)

This man is singularly responsible for many loses India had at Eden Garden. He is very biased and favored certain captains (of course Ganguli Included) who played up to him. Every visiting team captained by those of his dislike relished the pitches made by him. Sudhir Naik of Wankede in Mumbai is also following this tradition of regional politics and showman ship that this man has set in motion. Curators have become match makers these days unfortunately. They relish the limelight from the press who traditionally ignored them. ICC should create international pitch standards which would eliminate such self proclaimed pitch "makers".

Posted by 9ST9 on (January 14, 2013, 17:26 GMT)

Funny to see some fans still having a go at the old gent - nevertheless as someone mentioned the result was inevitable.

Posted by   on (January 14, 2013, 16:13 GMT)

English fans lined up for the autographs of an Indian Pitch curator, now that's something!

Posted by Cricketfan08 on (January 14, 2013, 11:59 GMT)

So he is responsible for 4 consecutive ODI batterings of India against Pakistan.

Posted by   on (January 14, 2013, 7:20 GMT)

Dead Commentors,

Instead of insulting this man's age, it'ld be more constructive if you can point specific issues with his actions ? I guess some of you know price of everything and value of nothing... reminds me of american sports.

Posted by   on (January 14, 2013, 4:26 GMT)

there is a reason why they have retirement age - you get delusional at times when you are 80 plus. this is a home match and as such the pitch should be as per the BCCI/team's wish. of course, you cant make a bad pitch ( IND tour of NZ ,etc) to end the match in 2-3 days. The pitch and crowd are the real challenges when playing away from home and it should be maintained around the world.

Posted by here2rock on (January 14, 2013, 3:34 GMT)

It can only happen in India, 83 years old man is given a job to prepare a pitch for a crucial Test Match. I guess you should ignore the age is someone is preparing a decent pitch but he is a horrible curator with an attitude, that is the worst part. God save the Indian cricket!

Posted by Buggsy on (January 14, 2013, 2:35 GMT)

I don't know the pitch at Eden Gardens, but right or wrong you have to admire his stubbornness. He must be doing something right though if he's still in the job.

Posted by   on (January 13, 2013, 21:00 GMT)

Kudos to the curator for his personality.. but why bring his ego into profession. He is a typical elder person stuck in the past and unwilling to let go of his theory even if its for the better of his country's team.

All Dhoni asked was a turner and this guy must have thought Dhoni is bossing him, while we know MSD is not that kind. He is one of the most honest people in cricket.

Even if this pitch was a square turner, Ind cud have still lost , since Mumbai was also a square turner.

Sometimes our emotions get ahead of reason! Kolkatta was a lifeless wicket and not the same as 2001.

Posted by bumsonseats on (January 13, 2013, 18:25 GMT)

or your groundsmen to aus /eng were the best cricketing wickets are prepared the BCCI should do this spend some of the money you make on the ipl let it be the Saviour of indian cricket and not just the selected few. this curator has shown great bravery some of the letters portray him as a silly old fool.he knows may be not in his lifetime that he stood up to an organization that the icc are frightened to do, bravo old gent.

Posted by   on (January 13, 2013, 18:19 GMT)

As a England fan, well done that man. Did a great job with the pitch and India could handle the better bowlers of England. Please can you put in charge of the pitch at Nagpur. Terrible, boring pitch that ended in a draw that went nowhere.

Posted by bumsonseats on (January 13, 2013, 18:18 GMT)

calling trent bridge or the oval ( the best wicket in england ) were scores of 500 + have been made and wickets taken by good batters and bowlers. unlike in india sometimes were you win the toss you win the game. i said before the indian test series in india like us you have water and grass seed both of these make good wickets if there is a good covering of even grass the ball comes on to the bat, bowlers can take wickets, spinner as the came gets older come in to their own.make the state games on wickets like these and you will see better batters and bowlers when you go overseas. your spinners have struggled against england a team most were saying could not play spin. then when you batted you were even worse.you have a few 85 mph bowlers granted some maybe injured at the moment but make wickets for these guys and go look at some young guys who want to bowl fast for their country.send a team over to the uk and play a part season to gain experience against the counties. to continue

Posted by sweetspot on (January 13, 2013, 16:14 GMT)

Kudos to this man for preparing a pitch on which India has never won against Pakistan! More than that, kudos to him for keeping his job after doing a shoddy job a few times. Having a personality is one thing, having it affect your job is entirely another. This man needs to shove his pride and just do his job. Enough already.

Posted by Nutcutlet on (January 13, 2013, 16:02 GMT)

He is obviously an honest man who does his job to the very best of his ability. To think that there is anyone else on the planet who knows his 'garden' as well as he does is ridiculous. With age, one becomes less deferential towards those who are appointed to powerful positions, such as the multi-millionaire Indian captain. Because there is no hidden agenda (such as: I must be careful what I say in case I upset someone who will attempt to wreck my career/ block my promotion) & he is decent & sane enough not to want great riches, we can take everything he says on face value. I find that most refreshing. There are not many left like that esp. in the world of Indian cricket. To underscore my point, I wonder if you could ever get a set of responses that are as clear & relaxed as these are from the chair of the BCCI?[ See them flying porkers?;-)] Loved the article. I'm a big fan of Mr Mukherjee & wish him a continued healthy life for many years to come. Bravo, sir! U R in no one's pocket!

Posted by foursandsixes on (January 13, 2013, 15:51 GMT)

Since when is Eden a good cricketing pitch?!!!!

Posted by hnlns on (January 13, 2013, 14:35 GMT)

He needs to prepare pitches with some life for at least first 2 days in a test match. Else he will get compliments like what Jeff Dujon had said as a commentator - that the curator looks more lively (even at the age of 80+) than the Eden Gardens pitch. Of course, nothing wrong in the fact that he made noise about being ordered to manipulate the pitch, something which he did not like. Even MSD would not want to be lectured on captaincy by a curator or somebody else - isn't it ?

Posted by Leggie on (January 13, 2013, 12:42 GMT)

IMO, Calcutta pitches have never been good sporting wickets for several years now. It seems pretty dull and lifeless for the most part - save for early on first day and the last day. It doesn't bounce or spin or for that matter - the ball doesn't even come on to the bat. Cannot understand how the likes of Prabir Mukherjee take so much pride in preparing such wickets.

Posted by balajit on (January 13, 2013, 12:28 GMT)

Well, Good article. Can totally respect his opinion that he knows his curator job & he need not be provided instruction. However it has to be same for all captains:

1. Remember 1996 semifinal -disgrace of a pitch

2. when he prepared seaming track against south Africa when ganguly was dropped.

His definition of home advantage is not correct. It is the ground conditions along with factors including the pitch makes for home advantage. Each & every country has its uniqueness however more than that the pitches play important role in deciding the outcome of the match.

Where else will you prepare spinning pitches in Australia & England ? It is a different matter altogether our spinners at the moment are average maybe still would have come second best to England anyway. But atleast in that way maybe provided an opportunity for the home team to win ,considering our pace bowling is next to poor in test matches.

Being stubborn is understatement here.It is pure case of I know it all attitude

Posted by   on (January 13, 2013, 10:31 GMT)

Don't think the kind of stubbornness of the likes of Prabir Mukharjee is nothing to be celebrated. The Kolkata pitch for the first 3 days was as flat as a road, offering absolutely nothing to the bowlers. India encounter fast, bouncy and seaming pitches in Australia, England and South Africa and that is absolutely fine. Spinning tracks are an Indian speciality, Indian tracks have to turn not just sleep through the match. It is disgraceful from Mr Mukharjee to turn out such flat tracks. The ball does something on day 5 on his tracks, to that extend we have to give him credit, but a good test pitch should have something for the bowler on all 5 days. If he had done that, all these big talks would have made some sense, regardless of whatever be the result.

Posted by bumble23 on (January 13, 2013, 9:41 GMT)

I find it odd when people start questioning about the turf that was prepared for the third test against england. MS Dhoni thinks he is superior to all and expects people dance to his piping. This curator was right in every sense to prepare a pitch that had bounce, turn and good carry. It was abominable to see Ms dhoni behave when aleem dar turned down a close decision in the first test. Its high time that Dhoni starts to behave in a sensible way and doesnt get carried away if he is backed up by India cements owner.

Posted by Rahulbose on (January 13, 2013, 9:27 GMT)

Ah so this is the bloke responsible for the 1996 Semi-final pitch.

Posted by screamingeagle on (January 13, 2013, 8:55 GMT)

Idealistic chap, I guess. Wonder how long he will be able to stay there though. Anyway, it is not as if he makes excellent pitches. My take is that he is too old and out of touch with reality. I do not believe that Aussies SA or Eng makes a fair pitch when other teams tour. And for his info, home conditions is not just about the crowd and stuff. I do agree with him when he says not to bow down to anybody. But there is a fine line between that and being stubborn.

Posted by here2rock on (January 13, 2013, 8:26 GMT)

I ask a question to the Indian administrators, is he fit for the job? Cricket in India is not run like a professional sport, here is a guy who just loves the attention but makes pitches which are just pathetic.

Posted by here2rock on (January 13, 2013, 8:23 GMT)

He is too old for the job. He should retire. He has made pitches which are not fair to both sides, they normally favours the batting side first, classic example was the 1996 SF India V Sri Lanka.

Posted by Rahul_78 on (January 13, 2013, 6:50 GMT)

"Those who can't score even 100 runs, I will tell them to go practice on the road. It will be better for you," Ha,ha,ha..! Classic! I would have loved to hear what he said to MSD when THAT request was made!

Posted by jimbond on (January 13, 2013, 6:39 GMT)

When cricketers cross 35 the Indian public asks for them to retire. Why are groundsmen and politicians treated differently. Is it because they are highly partisian? I know people will talk of his 'fairness' in refusing to listen to Dhoni. But in the past he has stooped further, remember his reactions for an Eden test when Saurav Ganguly was dropped from captaincy. Let him not give expert comments on the game and players. Eden pitch is certainly not the most sporting even in India.

Posted by Sir.Ivor on (January 13, 2013, 4:56 GMT)

Good Ole Probir kept the Calcutta flag flying and adhering to their tradition by going to the press soon after Dhoni was making silly statements about square turners. That is one occasion when Dhoni was wrong in his assessment that Srinivasan would stand by him. In the event Probir did as he pleased and India lost. He never bowed to anyone in his life.

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