The Cricket Association of Bengal on Tuesday, released postage stamps to commemorate 150 years of the Eden Gardens, considered the home of cricket in this part of the world, as legends of the game nostalgically recalled their fond memories of the iconic ground. (Also read: 10 excerpts from Sachin Tendulkar's autobiography)
The first day covers of the stamps, released under the India Post My Stamp venture, were brought out at a star-studded function on the historic ground, which hosted the World Cup final in 1987. (Tendulkar's book in Hindi, Telugu and Bengali?)
Postage stamps were also released to mark the contribution of CAB chief Jagmohan Dalmiya, former head of the world cricket governing body ICC and its India affiliate BCCI.
The function was graced by the legendary spin trio - Bishan Singh Bedi, Erappali Prasanna and Bhagwat Chandrasekhar - as also former Indian skippers Ajit Wadekar and Dilip Vengsarkar, besides West Indies' fast bowling great Michael Holding. CAB joint secretary and ex-India captain Sourav Ganguly joined the celebrations midway into the programme.
Wadekar, who led India to historic series triumphs in Englanad and West Indies in the early 1970s, said after Lords, the ground he relished more during his long cricketing career as player and coach was Eden.
"The facilities at Eden gardens was excellent, the people were very hospitable."
Narrating a funny incident when he was India's coach, Wadekar said he once offered England batsman Mike Gatting a prawn curry. "He liked it so much that he kept eating. As a result he could not go to the field the next day. His absence helped us win the match here."
Bedi made his Test debut at the Eden Gardens Dec 31, 1966 against the West Indies - a match infamous for a riot at the gallery.
"I have fond memories of Eden Gardens. During my debut Test there was fire in the stands. There was a teargas charge. Players ran helter skelter. You can say that for me, it was baptism by fire," he quipped.
Describing Eden as the most "electrifying stadium" in the world, Bedi said: "It is a proud momenta nostalgic moment for me to be here. Eden can give the Melbourne Cricket Ground a lot to chase."
Master legspinner Chandrasekhar, who had some great successes at the ground, said before making it to the Indian team, he had his first look at the Eden Gardens in 1962 during a visit to the city. "I was sitting in the gallery and thinking how I wish to play here."
Considered a lameduck batsman, Chandrasekhar said his most memorable moment in the Eden came in 1964, when he and Bapu Nadkarni put on 51 runs for the last wicket against England.
Prasanna, who prides himself as the son-in-law of Kolkata having married a Bengali, said the city and the CAB has never forgotten him. "Whenever I have come to the city, even for personal visits, the way I'm looked after is great."
Comparing his hometown Bangalore to Kolkata, he said: "Banglalore's hospitality is unbelievably low. The warmth and liking that Kolkata exudes has always floored me."
Vengsarkar, who also went down memory lane, said ahead of his first Test experience at the Eden Gardens in 1978-79, he was told that one has to bat, bowl and field well at the ground. "As otherwise, the crowd will be after you."
"I made sure I did well, I got my maiden Test hundred during the match against the West Indies. Later (in 1987-88) I scored another 100 on this ground."
Holding said the 150 year association between cricket and Eden itself was commendable. "Not many associations, companionships or friendships last that long. But the fact that the association has lasted has given a fillip to the game here as also the CAB."
Ganguly, for whom Eden was the home ground, said the stadium has through the years provided happiness, fun and satisfaction to the players, the crowd and sports administrators.