Cricket in the city of football
The beautiful game may be No. 1 here but the passion for cricket remains fierce, sometimes with unpleasant side-effects
Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) is home to the oldest cricket club outside the British Isles, the Calcutta Cricket Club, founded in 1792. It is also one of the few cities in India where love of football might trump love of cricket.
That's not too say the fans in Kolkata aren't passionate about their cricket. Eden Gardens regularly crams in 90,000 screaming fans that can spur their team on to greater feats. Unfortunately, there is an ugly side to that fervour too, which showed itself in the 1996 World Cup semi-final against Sri Lanka, when fans set fire to the stands after India lost quick wickets.
The city is home to India's most successful captain, Sourav Ganguly, who also captains the Kolkata Knight Riders, an IPL team partly owned by Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan. Ganguly had an ordinary ODI record at the ground, with a highest score of 48 from four matches.
Established in 1864, Eden Gardens is one of three stadiums in India that were renovated for the 2011 World Cup. The changes were on a massive scale, with the stadium being completely restructured for the event. Decades-old concrete seats were replaced with plastic bucket seats; a shade now covers the stands; a new media centre has been added; and additional practice facilities built within the stadium complex.
The revamping actually reduced the number of seats, from an estimated 86,961 to 82,000, but it is still the second largest cricket stadium in the world, with only the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia capable of holding more people.
The stadium was witness to perhaps India's finest moment in Tests, when VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid scripted the greatest come-from-behind victory of modern times against Australia. The pitch has traditionally offered even bounce and decent carry.
India v Pakistan, 1986-87
The first ODI at Eden Gardens fittingly took place against Pakistan and it was a nail-biter. Kris Srikanth's whirlwind hundred took India to 238 off 40 overs. When Pakistan slumped to at 161 for 5, it looked to be all over. But Saleem Malik had other ideas. He walloped 72 off 36 balls as Pakistan romped home with three balls and two wickets to spare.
India v Sri Lanka, World Cup, 1996
Perhaps the most ignominious moment in Indian cricket history. Vinod Kambli's tears remain the enduring image of a match that was called off after home supporters threw bottles on to the outfield and set fire to the seating, but it was Aravinda de Silva's magical half-century that scripted Sri Lanka's victory.
Pakistan v West Indies, Nehru Cup, 1989-90
In the 1989 Nehru Cup final, Viv Richards was forced to bowl the last over after Malcolm Marshall, Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose had all finished their quotas. With three to get off two deliveries, Wasim Akram dispatched the West Indies skipper high over wide midwicket for a huge six, and victory.
Top performers in ODIs
Most runs Sachin Tendulkar, 496 runs at 49.60 | Top score Gautam Gambhir, 150* v Sri Lanka
Most wickets Kapil Dev, 14 wickets at 16.85 | Best bowling Anil Kumble, 6 for 12 v West Indies
Despite not producing many Test cricketers, Bengal have a decent domestic record. The team has won the Ranji Trophy twice, in 1936-37 and again in 1990, and been runners-up 11 times.
The city's IPL team, Kolkata Knight Riders, started out appalling. Their best finish in the first three seasons was sixth from eight teams. In 2011 they finished in the top four and finally won the tournament the year after.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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More in Kolkata
The Park Hotel (from Rs 7000) is a boutique five-star hotel on Park Street, the nightlife headquarters.
Buy semi-precious stones and silver from Chamba Lama.
Tips for Travellers
Kolkata has some of the most squalid and abject poverty in any Indian metro but it has a charm that has attracted travellers for a couple of centuries. If you open your mind you can look beyond the filth you can still see traces of what was once the second city of the Empire, the mercantile and cultural cutting edge of India.