It was a party in pink at the ‘City of Joy’ as India began its tryst with Day/Night Tests in front of political bigwigs, galaxy of sports stars and a sell-out crowd, which ensured that Sourav Ganguly’s promise of a spectacle lived up to its hype.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee rang the Eden Gardens Bell ahead of the toss here on Friday but it was the famously enthusiastic Kolkata fans, who gave the match its character.
After being reluctant for four years, India finally embraced the Day/Night format for Test cricket, following a strong push from new BCCI President Ganguly and Kolkata proved to be the perfect host.
Four days of the game are already sold out. Tickets are also reportedly up for sale in black market at five times their original prices, which start from Rs 150.
Spectators, a lot of them clad in pink, thronged the iconic stadium, making for the kind of carnival-like atmosphere that is now seen mostly in T20 games.
The last memory of such overwhelming response to a Test was the epic 2001 game that India played against Australia and won by 171 runs following-on at the same ground.
At the BC Roy Clubhouse, it was a pink carpet welcome for the invited dignitaries, which included the two greats of Indian sport — cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar and Olympic hero Abhinav Bindra — among a host of others.
From the 50-odd groundsmen in pink-coloured clothing to a giant pink balloon hovering over the Eden sky, it was a carnival-like atmosphere that greeted anyone who cared to walk in to the Eden Gardens.
The chief guests — Hasina and Banerjee — entered the stadium five minutes before toss, escorted by Cricket Association of Bengal secretary Avishek Dalmiya.
A police band welcomed Hasina and Banerjee as the duo greeted the two teams.
Toss was done with a ceremonial silver coin followed by the national anthem, after the CAB had to cancel its plan of a paratrooper flying on to the ground to deliver the pink ball.
Hasina and Banerjee, along with the likes of Tendulkar, spoke to both the teams’ players. Also present were some former Bangladesh players, who played in their country’s first Test.
The players present from the neighbouring country included their first Test captain Naimur Rahman, Mohammed Mahmudul Hasan, Maharab Hossain, Mohammed Hasibul Hussain, Shahriar Hossain Biddut, Kazi Habibul Bashar and Mohammed Akram Khan.
Former Indian cricketers in attendance included Sadagopan Ramesh, Saba Karim, Sunil Joshi, Ajit Agarkar, Venkatesh Prasad, Kapil Dev, Dilip Vengsarkar, Mohammed Azharuddin, K Srikkanth, Farokh Engineer and Chandu Borde.
Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, @MamataOfficial, Honourable Chief Minister, West Bengal and #TeamIndia great @sachin_rt greet #TeamIndia ahead of the #PinkballTest pic.twitter.com/ldyrKjbxrE
— BCCI (@BCCI) November 22, 2019
Sports stars from other sports who showed up at BCCI’s invitation included Bindra, Pullela Gopichand, P V Sindhu, Sania Mirza and M C Mary Kom.
Kolkata and sweets go hand in hand and it was little surprise that a one such shop made Sondesh in pink colour, something that was shared by Ganguly on his official Twitter handle. “Sweets go pink in Kolkata,” Ganguly had tweeted.
City’s important landmarks — the Shahid Minar, the tallest building ’42’ and some Kolkata Municipality Corportation Parks — were illuminated with pink lights.
The Eden Test will have the usual lunch break after the first session at 3
pm while the last break would be for tea spanning 20 minutes. As per ICC norms, playing conditions can be altered by mutual consent of both the countries.