The Eden Gardens in Kolkata, India, is not a religious ground or natural park. It is a cricket stadium, the largest in India by seating capacity, one of the largest stadiums in Asia and the second largest in the world also by seating capacity. More than 90,000 people can enjoy a match, and locals say this famous stadium once accommodated 120,000 people to see an important cricket game. (The world’s biggest stadium is the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia.)
Cricket is big in India; more popular than any other sport. Although it is not officially the national sport here, everybody loves it. Kids and people of all ages play it in open spaces all over India, much like what people do in the United States with American football, in Thailand with Muay Thai and in Brazil with football. The world of cricket recognizes India as a powerhouse of the sport. The India National Cricket Team won the 1983 Cricket World Cup in England, 2011 World Cup and the 2007 ICC World Twenty20, which was the inaugural Twenty20 Cricket World Championship held in South Africa.
The love for the sport makes Eden Gardens a very important stadium in Kolkata. It is the home of Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), the official cricket team that represents the city in the Indian Premier League. KKR plays by the theme “Korbo, Lorbo, Jeetbo Re” (“We will do it, fight for it, win it”) and flying purple and gold banners and jerseys. KKR is known to be the second most valuable cricket franchise brand with an estimated value US$46 million.
Eden Gardens is also home to a number of important international Test, One Day and Twenty20 competitions. It is considered as the most iconic cricket stadium in India and one of the most popular in the world, earning the honor as “cricket’s answer to the Colosseum”. It has hosted 37 Test matches.
A Test is the longest and most rigorous type of cricket competition with four innings and played for a period of up to five days. Each game is a test to the competing team’s endurance, which was why it was named a Test match.
There is so much history and national pride to the Eden Gardens. It was established as early as 1864. Records reveal that Indians were already playing cricket sometime in 1721. Around 1792, the first cricket and football club was established in Calcutta (former name of Kolkata), the capital of British India. The year 1864 marked the start of major national cricket matches as the newly opened stadium in Calcutta hosted the first ever first-class cricket match between Calcutta and Madras. In 1932, India was considered one of the elite countries together with England, South Africa, New Zealand and the West Indies. Eden Gardens hosted the first Test in 1934 and the first One Day International in 1987.
Much like football, cricket matches could turn ugly and overly passionate. Fans attempt to climb stadium walls to see their cricket heroes and become very emotional during the games. There have been major riots in the Calcutta stadium during the 1966-67 West Indies and 1969-70 Australian tours. In 1980, 16 people died from a stampede during a game between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal.
Today, the popularity of the sport only continues to grow and Eden Gardens remains to be the best loved stadium in the city. This huge sporting ground is often filled with a large and overzealous crowd. (The stadium’s club house is named after the former Chief Minister of West Bengal, Dr. B. C. Roy.)