Dialog Powers Inaugural U-19 Women’s National Cricket Team to T20 World Cup – The Island

Rex Clementine
in Calcutta

After the T-20s were witnessed by packed crowds – all exceeding 30,000 in Bombay, Rajkot and Pune – the first ODI in Guwahati was bit of a disappointment as only half the stadium was full. India’s latest cricket ground with a 40,000 capacity had staged a game in October as well when South Africa toured India and three months later to get another game is highly unusual.

India has five main cricket centers – Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta, Madras and Bangalore. It is those centers that used to get regular fixtures until recently but newer grounds are favored nowadays maybe due to the change of political landscape in cricket.

Jay Shah, cricket’s most powerful man is from Ahmedabad and that venue gets games frequently nowadays and Guwahati is climbing up the ladder maybe because the Joint Secretary of BCCI Devajit Saikia is from this city.

There are plenty of activities to do in Guwahati and one of the must go places is the place of worship known as Kamakhya Devalaya, built in the eighth century. Yes, Devalaya is the name given for place of worship in this part of India. The temple dedicated to Lord Ganesh gets packed by noon so an early visit is the safest bet. According to the Kalika Purana, Kamakhya Devalaya ‘denotes the spot where Sati used to retire in secret to satisfy her amour di lei with Shiva’.

The temple is some eight kilometers from the city but it takes more than 40 minutes as this place is in a hilly area. But the trouble is fully worth as you feel spiritually nourished after the visit.

Our next stop Kolkata is just a short one hour flight from Guwahati. The cheapest mode of transport is train but it takes you some 16 hours to cover the distance of 1080 kilometers and when you have back to back games, that’s out of the equation. Otherwise, train is the best mode of transportation in India. Clean, cheap and on time.

Although flying time is just one hour to Calcutta from Guwahati, sometimes you end up being on the air for an hour and half. It all depends on what time you travel. If you are traveling during peak hours and if the air traffic control can not give you clearance to land, then you spend the extra half an hour as the aircraft circles around the same range of mountains.

Calcutta is okay, but in Bombay almost every flight lands some 20 minutes behind schedule as India’s commercial capital is a busy place.

Calcutta’s airport is named after Subash Chandra Bose, a freedom fighter. Deeply known as Netaji (Respected Leader). Bose was at one point a leader of the Congress party. While Mahatma Gandhi believed in principles of non violence, the British educated Bose wanted a more aggressive approach for India’s path to freedom.

His legacy was tainted somewhat after showing support to Japan and Germany prior to the 2nd World War. He died aged 48 in 1945 in a plane crash before India had gained independence.

The iconic Eden Gardens is the pride of Calcutta having hosted a World Cup final and a semi-final. For Sri Lankans the place is so special as it was here that they defeated India in the 1996 semi-final.

The most famous cricketer from Calcutta of course is former captain Sourav Ganguly, who went onto become the President of the Indian cricket board. Geoffrey Boycott in his commentary called Ganguly ‘Prince of Calcutta’ when he first came onto the scene. After Ganguly had become captain of India, someone suggested that he better now call Ganguly the ‘King of Calcutta’. Boycott refused to do so for there is only one king of Calcutta – the ever versatile Jagmohan Dalmiya.

It is Dalmiya who broke the England and Australia stronghold in cricket. It is he who made cricket in India a profession by paying the players big money having signed up big television companies.

Dalmiya’s family business was construction and he was a practical man. He was the head of the organizing committee of the 1996 World Cup and faced a storm when Australia and West Indies refused to play in Colombo due to security reasons. After Colombo promised security provided to heads of state, still the two teams were not changing their stance. In order to show that Colombo was safe for cricket, he quickly arranged a joint India – Pakistan team to play a friendly match against Arjuna’s side.

Kamakhya Devalaya in Guwahati was built in the 8th century.

Dalmiya had to deal with several problems. He knew that for Pakistan captain Wasim Akram to play under Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin or vice-versa was impossible. So he first picked a manager for the team. He chose former Pakistan captain Intikhab Alam. Then he made Intikhab understand what a privilege for him to be managing this side filled with superstars. As a happy Intikhab started to leave the room, he threw the dice.

“You see Intikhab now that Pakistan has got the Manager’s position, it is not fair to give the captaincy too to Pakistan. So, Azhar will lead the team. As Manager, it is your responsibility to convince Wasim that he’s got to play under Azhar,” Problem solved.

Dalmiya ruled cricket with an iron fist. Most of it during his tenure as Secretary of BCCI. He became the ICC President before becoming President of BCCI. He was responsible for taking the ICC headquarters out of Lord’s to the current location in Dubai.

Although some people have a few undesirable things to say about Dalmiya, he was a friend of Sri Lanka and always helped SLC whenever India’s support was needed. Such men are rare these days.

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