Cut-outs of Jagmohan Dalmiya dot the road alongside the Eden Gardens, a sad reminder of his absence at the iconic stadium that he had nurtured for more than three decades.
When you step inside the stadium, the familiar figure of Probir Mukherjee, the lanky curator, is missing too.
His booming voice would keep the ground staff on their toes and often serve as warning to the players to not venture near the square. Even M.S. Dhoni had a sour send-off once from Probir Da , as he was fondly called.
Dalmiya, referred to cricket circles as Jaggu Da , and Mukherjee would be conspicuous by their absence as Eden Garden celebrates India’s 250th Test on home soil.
Dalmiya and Mukherjee complemented each other, in good and bad times, and departed within nine months of the other, leaving a void hard to fill.
The changing face of Eden is driven home by a new set of office-bearers, led by Sourav Ganguly. He misses the two elderly cricket figures and also acknowledges the necessity of modernisation at the Eden.
An effective drainage system is the priority, not to forget the state-of-the-art covers that Ganguly has procured. Rain will not ruin a match anymore at the Eden.
The crowd at the Eden has changed. There is no clamour for tickets. Not a good sign for the future of Test cricket. True, Green Park witnessed overwhelming spectator response. But Eden is the yardstick by which an event is judged.
The character of the spectators has undergone a change at most cricket venues in the country. Eden is not an exception either.
Driven by the IPL experience, fans come and celebrate the day at a cricket ground with festive fervour. They are vociferous as always, but not traditional cricket lovers.
The crowd at the Eden was always passionate. But they were also well-informed. as this anecdote from Sports journalist Dhiman Sarkar illustrates.
He was nine when he first attended a Test at the Eden, India versus England, in 1982. Derek Underwood had just claimed a wicket and the person next to him asked, “Do you know what that ball was?” Dhiman was at a loss. “That was an armer.”
That said it all. The spectators did not come to the Eden to just take their seats and make noise. They did their homework and enjoyed the fare provided by some of the greats, past and modern.
There will be some in the stands from the old school to carry on the legacy of the Eden, a rich testimony of India’s cricket history. Only Jaggu da and Probir da will be missing for the first time in many years.