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Why watch cricket in Kolkata?

by James Wilmshurst
Eden Gardens cricket stadium in Kolkata, india

Cricket in Eden Gardens (no, not the one in Cornwall) conjures up vivid images and memories. Mike Gatting’s fatal reverse sweep in the first World Cup final outside of Lords in 1987. Arguably the greatest come-from-behind victory of all time. The riots of the Test against Pakistan in ‘99 and Sachin going for a Golden Duck. When the home crowd booed as their hero, the Prince of Calcutta, wasn’t selected against South Africa in ‘05. Trescothick’s valiant but ultimately failed 121 from 109 balls.

And if the stadium didn’t have enough history of its own, it’s situated right in the heart of Kolkata (Calcutta), one of India’s most fascinating cities. The home of the British East India Company, the Victoria Memorial and the Black Hole of Calcutta, its past is steeped in British colonialism. Mother Teresa lived here; a Marble Palace was built here; the Hooghly Bridge, and its daily support of 100,000 motor vehicles, still stands proudly here. It is also where you’ll find the best Kathi Rolls, a Bengali speciality, which is absolutely not to be missed.

Cricket is yet another remnant of Kolkata’s colonial history. The Calcutta Cricket & Football Club (CC&FC), which is often recognised as the oldest cricket club in the world outside of Britain, was founded in 1792. The sport’s role in the city is emotive, complex and vibrant; a symbol of the past that thrives to this day.  What a place to watch cricket, right?

Eden Gardens is looking a little shabby these days, which is perhaps understandable given that it’s meant to be the oldest ground in India. But that only adds to the nostalgia and atmosphere created within. It was last revamped for the 2011 World Cup and the capacity was reduced from an eye-watering 100,000 to (only) 66,000. It still hosts the Bengal Ranji and the Kolkata Knight Riders plus test matches.

Playing cricket in Kolkata on the Maidan with the Victoria Memorial in the background
Six!

You couldn’t ask for a better location given the context of Kolkata’s layout. Eden Gardens is located at the northwest point of the Maidan, a vast expanse of fields (often home to numerous amateur cricket matches at one time) on the banks of the Hooghly before the sprawl of Kolkata takes over. Towards the south of the Maidan, you have the Victoria Memorial – a morning walking between the two is not a bad way to spend your time.

Just to the northeast of the ground is the former British centre of Calcutta, Dalhousie Square and BBD Bag, which is full of incredible but crumbling buildings and British history. Depending on the hotel you stay in, you could even walk across the Maidan in 40 minutes to Eden Gardens and walk to Dalhousie Square in 20 from the ground.

On a typical day in Kolkata, you might wake up, go for a swim, have breakfast. Meet your guide and jump into a small part of the melting pot of the city centre and maybe learn a bit more about fascinating Bengal. You might have family history to explore. You could learn about the confluence of cultures that have made Kolkata such a diverse city. Then it’s the cricket in one of the most iconic stadiums in the world. Relax back at the hotel after the day’s events or even set aside some time with your guide to taste the variety of cuisine Kolkata has to offer. Not a bad day. It will be even better if England win.

CURIOUS ABOUT WATCHING CRICKET IN KOLKATA?

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