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What We're Watching

Lookit: Eden Gardens matches down the years

This week, some magic and not-so-magic moments from India's most iconic venue

Shamya Dasgupta
Shamya Dasgupta
30-Mar-2020
Eden Gardens: home to 100,000 screaming fans

Eden Gardens: home to 100,000 screaming fans  •  Getty Images

With no live cricket to watch, which corners of YouTube are our writers taking refuge in? In this What We're Watching piece, four years on from the "remember the name" World T20 final at Eden Gardens - relive that final over here - Shamya Dasgupta, who's watched almost every international game at that venue since India's December 1983 Test against West Indies, dives deep into cricket in Kolkata, warts and all.
Cricket and chaos
The first time Eden Gardens witnessed large-scale violence was in 1966-67, on day two of a Test against West Indies. It was a crazy New Year's day, a Sunday, and while accounts vary, the accepted truth is that the association had sold more tickets than there was space for. People spilled on to the ground, eventually beyond the boundary line. One thing led to another, and a free-for-all ensued, the cops doing much to provoke the spectators with their stick-swinging ways. Chandu Borde, India's No. 4 in that game, recalls how it all went down.
Cut to 1996 and that India-Sri Lanka World Cup semi-final, which had to eventually be abandoned due to crowd violence. It's fresher in the memory, and there's a lot more footage.
I love the commentary here, first between Tony Greig and Geoffrey Boycott, and then Ravi Shastri and Sunil Gavaskar, with the match referee Clive Lloyd making an appearance as well. Being there and witnessing it all first-hand was quite an experience, and reliving it is at once exciting and scary. There's even footage of the lead-in to the violence. The contest itself had been engrossing before it turned sour, as you can see in the extended highlights.
Eden Gardens was also the venue of the 1996 World Cup's ill-fated opening ceremony. Note how the crowd totally brings it on for West Indies - from 05.54 to 06.30. The city and that team share a long-running love affair.
Empty stands
For those who have been to Eden during the days of jam-packed stands, 90,000 seats without a bum on them was a jarring sight. That happened after more crowd trouble during the 1999 Test against Pakistan. Here's a refresher of the incident and its aftermath, including visuals of Sachin Tendulkar trying to pacify the crowd, the brilliant Pakistan team, and the match ending in eerie silence. Though Saeed Anwar and Javagal Srinath shared the Player-of-the-Match honours, that Test was really about Shoaib Akhtar. Here's some footage of his unplayable bowling in the second innings, and then, of course, those two unforgettable deliveries from the first.
Back in time
Have you ever seen old newsreels summarising matches? Here's one from India's 28-run Test win against England in 1972-73, complete with music that wouldn't have been out of place in a Hindi movie of the time.
Two years later, India began their fightback from 2-0 down by beating West Indies in a close game at Eden Gardens. Here's footage from that game, which includes some brilliant square-cutting from Gundappa Viswanath during his magnificent second-innings 139.
Azhar, Azhar!
Much of the early cricket I watched at Eden Gardens involved Mohammad Azharuddin's seemingly never-ending love affair with the ground. There was the century on debut, of course, and the time he bashed the South Africans all around the park for a 77-ball 109 in 1996-97. There's the 163 not out against Australia in 1998, which made Ian Chappell exclaim, "He really is an artist when he's going". And the century against England, back in 1992-93, that gave his career its second wind. Unforgettable.
There was a time, really, when we felt that Azhar, never mind India, couldn't lose in Kolkata. Take the 1993-94 Hero Cup, for example. First, that semi-final, climaxing with Sachin Tendulkar's brilliant final over. And then the final, with star turns from Kapil Dev - another Eden hero - and Anil Kumble. It all changed in 1996.
… and 2001
The greatest Test match? There's no debate whatsoever when it comes to people from Kolkata. Here's VVS Laxman looking back on that game and his 281, and a short but incisive bit of analysis from Ian Chappell. The match is recent enough that there are loads of videos: the full highlights, those three Tendulkar wickets, and a bit of the fourth innings. What a Test it was, and what a theatre Eden is.
For more such curated YouTube playlists, click here.

Shamya Dasgupta is Senior Assistant Editor at ESPNcricinfo