Is all well with Eden Gardens?

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Tapan Mohanta

Kolkata, Jan 24 (PTI) The famed Eden Gardens resembling abattlefield with renovation work going on in full gear aheadof the ICC team''s final inspection for the World Cup mightpaint a sorry picture, but the Cricket Association of Bengal(CAB) is optimistic that it will be ready in time.

Having missed the deadlines to finish the work twicealready --- November 30, 2010 and January 15 this year -- theCAB this time promises to hand over the World Cup venue onJanuary 31.

"There is no construction work left. There are only afew things here and there that need to be fixed. Once thefitting is done, the venue will be ready and we will hand itover on January 31," CAB joint-secretary Biswarup Dey toldPTI today.

However, the sight of Eden Gardens in shambles mightgive a different picture with heavy iron beams, bricks andmortars and tons of garbage lying all over the stadium as thebulldozers work overtime to clear the mess less than 24 hoursbefore the ICC delegation''s visit.

But the CAB maintained that all is well with EdenGardens.

Asked if he was happy with the progress, CAB supremoJagmohan Dalmiya shot back, "Then why are we here for? Wewould have given up long time ago if we were not happy... Thisis not the first time we are hosting a big tournament likethis. We have already hosted World Cup matches twice (final in1987 and semifinal in 1996 )."

Giving example of hosting back-to-back matches during theHero Cup in 1993, Dalmiya said, "We hosted two semi-finalsand the final of the Hero Cup and never ever ourorganisational capability has been doubted."

"It''s the media that pressed the panic button andcreated a general misconception. Renovation work isdone based on the existing basic structure of the stadium andit will be ready in time," Dalmiya said.

The ground reality, however, is that the much-talkedabout Press Box and VIP enclosures are yet to be ready as theyare temporarily used as go downs for building materials or asshelters for construction workers.

The bucket seats are yet to be fixed in the upper tiersof five blocks of A, B, C, K and L while the basic amenitiesof toilets are in a spot of bother with building materialsstrewn all over as puddles have formed here and there actingas breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Even the main entry and the path that leads to thedressing room is locked and heavily dusted and is underconstruction.

But the CAB joint-secretary said there was nothing toworry about. MORE TAP MD KHS

"These minor things will remain even a day before the match. We will have to clean and clear even on the eve of amatch," Dey said.

As fas as the safety-related measures, the fire officialsare in dark as they can only carry out the inspection once therenovation work gets over.

"We will visit the Eden Gardens after the renovationwork is complete and only then we can say how much the CAB hascomplied with the directives that we wanted," DebapriyaBiswas, director-general of the fire department, has saidearlier.

Amid all the rubble, the silver lining, however, is thatthe ground and the dressing rooms are ready.

"The pitch and the ground is ready. The pitch will bethat of a typical one-day one," curator Prabir Mukherjee saidof the pitch that will host the first World Cup match onFebruary 27 when India face England.

In a USD 32 million project, the CAB retained the team ofBurt, Hill and VMS of Ahmedabad to renovate the 50-year-oldEden Gardens.

Incidentally, Burt Hill Inc in their website has statedthat the project was scheduled to be unveiled in December andit involves complete restructuring of the stadium, includingreplacing the decades-old concrete seats with comfortableworld-class plastic chairs.

"It also includes a new clubhouse and players''facilities, upgrades to the exterior wall, a new metal skinfor the existing roof, and upgraded patron amenities... tobeing an eye-catching stadium for the World Cup."

Dismissing speculation, the BCCI and the ICC have earliersaid the venue would be ready.

The tournament director and also the chief administrativeofficer of the BCCI Ratnakar Shetty had earlier singled outEden Gardens in Kolkata, Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, PallkeleStadium and Hambantota Stadium in Sri Lanka as the venueswhere the renovation work is still on but will be ready forthe quadrennial event.

The renovation of the stadium and replacement of theconcrete galleries with more comfortable bucket seats meansthat the capacity of 85,000 will have been reduced to about60,000 when complete.

The CAB is also overhauling the dressing rooms lay out,furniture, illumination, air-conditioning, the 17-year-oldfloodlights, the first to be installed in a cricket ground inthe sub-continent.

In their final round of inspection, the team of ICC andBCCI who are inspecting the Wankhede today will visit EdenGardens tomorrow.

The team had earlier visited Eden Gardens on December 9.

Eden Gardens is scheduled to host four group matches --India v England on February 27, Ireland v South Africa onMarch 15, Ireland v Netherlands on March 18 and Kenya vZimbabwe on March 20.

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