Kolkata: Eden Gardens, which will be hosting the first Qualifier and the Eliminator in IPL 2022 next week, looks to provide a wicket which can make for an even contest between the bat and the ball. It’s after a gap of nearly three years that the IPL is returning to the historic venue - with the added incentive of capacity crowd being allowed after the relaxation of the Covid norms.
While there could be some disappointment among the Kolkata Knight Riders fans as the home team will be missing out on the action after failing to qualify thanks to an inconsistent show this season, there will be plenty to cheer for - with newcomers Gujarat Titans already assured of a place in the first Qualifier while Lucknow Super Giants could be their likely opponents on Tuesday.
The two sides have provided a breath of fresh air in the long drawn league this season and it won’t be a surprise if the Titans enjoy an extra backing from the passionate Kolkata fans as two of their senior pros - paceman Mohammed Shami and wicketkeeper-batter Wriddhiman Saha represent the state of Bengal in domestic competitions. While Shami is among the top 10 wicket-takers in the league so far with 18 wickets from 14 games, Saha has made the most of the nine matches he played with some smart work behind the stumps and excelling in the Powerplay with aggregate of 312 runs.
‘‘Eden Gardens is where I started my first class career and I am certainly looking forward to bowl there. I hope to enjoy some support from the crowd too,’’ Shami said during a media interaction few days back.
The Eden wicket, in recent years, has developed a reputation of providing some help to the pace bowlers early on with the ball coming onto the bat - and this is what the man at the helm of affairs is hoping this time as well.
Sujan Mukherjee, curator of the Eden wicket, said: ‘‘We are leaving nothing to chance to offer the kind of wicket we have seen here over the last six-seven years. It should not be just a belter and will assist the spinners in the later half as well. If you ntoice, the nature of wickets in Mumbai this season has really made a difference to the cricket we saw over these two months.’’
Mukherjee, however, is praying that rains should not act as a spoilsport in the run-up to the games. There is forecast for some rains over the weekend and hosting body Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) have made contingency plans to provide covers for the square and the outfield. ‘‘If the wicket has to be covered overnight, the moisture creates a problem,’’ he said.
Looking forward: Dalmiya
‘‘We are all looking forward to it. In fact, we are hosting an IPL after a gap of three years because in 2019, we hosted it last. As you know that for the last couple of years it has been shifted to UAE and even this year also that matches are taking place in Mumbai, so now that things have improved, we are looking forward it,’’ CAB president Abhishek Dalmiya said.
Asked about the preparations for the two high profile games, Dalmiya said: ‘‘The statement has allowed full capacity so there is no restriction as of now. The Covid restrictions which were imposed earlier are no longer there, so we are looking forward to full house.’’