Calcutta is a sports lover’s paradise, and one of the leading sports is cricket. Indians love cricket, to put it lightly. Cricket in Calcutta centers around the historic Eden Gardens stadium, which is the largest cricket ground in all of India and the second largest in the world, next only to Australia’s Melbourne Cricket Ground. Everyone in the country and most of South Asia regards it as the most iconic cricket stadium in this part of the globe.
Having earned national popularity as a leading tourist attraction since 1864, Eden Gardens has been the venue for a number of major and important cricket events in the country. The most anticipated ones are those between India and Pakistan. Those are the matches that make cricket fans go overly zealous. They wear face masks, run around the giant stadium and even attempt to jump over stadium walls just to see their cricket heroes closer. Cricket is the number one sport in India and Calcutta fans make that more obvious inside the Eden Gardens.
Cricket in India is like Sumo in Japan, American football in the United States, and football in Brazil. Thousands turn up at the humungous stadium all pumped up and ready to cheer their favorite cricket team. Eden Gardens is the home of the Bengal cricket team called Kolkata Knight Riders, which is a member of the Indian Premier League. The stadium is home to several international cups and Test competitions.
Eden Gardens can accommodate around 90,000 cheering fans. That’s already a lot of people. Before the 1987 World Cup, however, about 120,000 were said to have crowded inside the stadium. Nobody did an official count, though, but officials believe there are about that many people that day.
Through the years, fans have flocked to this stadium through so many major events. The first Test cricket was held in 1934 and the first One Day International was in 1987; in 1966 and 1969, the stadium was marred by rioting, while in 1980, 16 fans died in a stampede during an East Bengal and Mohun Bagan match; in 1987, the stadium hosted the World Cup won by Australia over England; in 1997 during the World Cup semi-finals, the crowd disturbed the match after an Indian batting collapse and as a result, the game was awarded to Sri Lanka; another major rioting took place in 1999, which forced the police to empty the entire stadium; in 2000/01, VVS Laxman accomplished what was called as “the greatest come-from-behind victory of modern times” over Australia; and in the same year, Harbhajan Singh became the first Indian to make a hat-trick in Test cricket. He did it over Australia.
Fans can get over-zealous, which explains the constant rioting. There is great hype to every cricket game and cricket superstar. Daily newspapers and publications make sure that they cover every cricket match and devote a significant amount of space. Fans closely follow the matches as well as the private lives of cricket players, as though they were Hollywood stars. In other words, cricket in Calcutta makes fans drool and go gaga.