Three Indian cricketers with an exceptional record at Eden Gardens

Renin Wilben Albert

Mohammad Azharuddin (left) at Eden Gardens.

The iconic Eden Gardens in Kolkata is all set to host the first ever day/night Test in India between India and Bangladesh during November 22-26. The Test is all set to witness the presence of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is also likely to request Prime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to attend the first day of the Kolkata Test.

Eden Gardens has been witness to some historic events in the past as well. The stadium with the biggest capacity in India hosted the first World Cup final that was played outside England, in 1987. The ground also played host to the first-ever Asian Test Championship match between India and Pakistan, in 1999. It was at Eden Gardens itself that India snapped Australia’s record 16-match winning streak in Tests.

Apart from being renowned for its history, Eden Gardens has been the favourite hunting ground of some famous Indian cricketers. In this feature, we take a look at three Indians with outstanding record at Eden Gardens.

#3. Harbhajan Singh

Harbhajan Singh

It was at Eden Gardens that Harbhajan Singh revived his international career after a mediocre start, picking up the first hat-trick by an Indian in Test cricket and then going on to stun Australia despite being asked to follow on in the same match. In the 2001 Test against the Aussies, the off-spinner picked up 7 for 123 in 37.5 overs, which included the hat-trick. However, it was in the second innings that the Turbanator caused even greater damage, claiming 6 for 73 as India won the famous Test by 171 runs, and grounded the high-flying Aussies.

Singh was the Man of the Match in the 2004 Test against South Africa at the venue, with figures of 7 for 87 in Proteas’ second innings as they were bowled out for 222. The off-spinner dismissed most of the big guns -- Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Hashim Alma among others -- to set up an eight-wicket triumph for India. Six years later, Singh returned with figures of 3 for 64 and 5 for 59 at the same venue as South Africa went down by an innings and 57 runs despite Amla scoring a hundred in each innings. For India, Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman, Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni all scored hundreds.

In 2007, Singh claimed 5 for 122 in the first innings against Pakistan in a high-scoring draw. He also claimed a five-for in the only Test he played against West Indies, in 2002. The match, which saw hundreds from Wavell Hinds, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Marlon Samuels and Tendulkar, ended in a stalemate.

Harbhajan Singh’s record at Eden Gardens: 7 Tests, 46 wickets, 21.76 average, 6 five-wicket hauls, one 10-wicket haul, 7/87 best bowling figures (in an innings).

Singh was the first Indian to get a hat-trick in Tests.

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#2. VVS Laxman

VVS Laxman

Just like Bhajji, VVS Laxman’s international career also saw a stunning revival at Eden Gardens, although he showed glimpses of brilliance at Sydney in the 2000 Test. Laxman scored a fluent 59 in the first innings of the 2001 Kolkata Test, as India crumbled to 171 in response to Australia’s 445. The innings was, however, enough for the Indian think-tank to promote Laxman up to number three as the hosts followed on. Laxman batted at No.6 in the first innings. The moved turned out to be one of the greatest ever in cricket. Laxman terrorised Shane Warne and co en route to an unforgettable 281. The rest, as they say, is history.

Even back in 1998, when Laxman was not an established name in Indian cricket, he made 95 as a makeshift opener in the Test against Australia at Eden as India won by an innings and 219 runs. In two Tests against the Aussies at Kolkata, Laxman amassed 435 runs at an average of 145.

Laxman enjoyed tremendous success against West Indies at Eden Gardens. He made 378 runs in two Tests against them, and was dismissed just once to get an average of 378. In a high-scoring draw in 2002, Laxman made an unbeaten 154 in India’s second innings. Tendulkar was Man of the Match for his second innings 176. In the 2011 Test against the same opponent, Laxman was Man of the Match for his unbeaten 176. India posted 631 for 7 declared batting first as India won by an innings and 15 runs.

Rahul Dravid partnered Laxman during his phenomenal 281.

In the 2007 Test against Pakistan, Laxman scored a fluent 112 not out. However, his knock was overshadowed by Wasim Jaffer’s double hundred. In the 2010 Test against South Africa, the Very Very Special man of Indian cricket contributed an unbeaten 143 in India’s first-innings total of 643 for 6. India won the Test by an innings and 57 runs.

VVS Laxman’s record at Eden Gardens: 10 Tests, 1,217 runs, 110.63 average, 5 hundreds, 281 highest score.

Sourav Ganguly was India captain in the historic 2001 Test.

#1. Mohammad Azharuddin

Mohammad Azharuddin

Before Sourav Ganguly arrived on the scene, former India captain Mohammad Azharuddin was the most adored cricketer at Eden Gardens. Azhar’s game rose to a different level at Kolkata just like Dilip Vengsarkar’s did while batting at Lord’s. Azhar’s love affair with Eden began with his debut Test, when he notched up 110 against England in 1984 in a drawn Test. Nine years later, when the same opponents visited India, captain Azhar dazzled his way to 182 from 197 balls as the hosts registered an impressive eight-wicket triumph.

One of Azhar’s most authoritative knocks came against Australia in 1998. The Aussies came to India with one of their weakest attacks -- Shane Warne being their only known name among the bowlers. Azhar blazed away to an unbeaten 163 from 246 balls as India posted 633 for 5 declared in response to Australia’s 233. The game was unique in the sense that everyone in the top six crossed fifty -- Laxman (95), Navjot Sidhu (97), Rahul Dravid (86), Tendulkar (79) and Ganguly (65). Not surprisingly, India won by an innings and 219 runs.

Azhar got a patient 141 against Pakistan in the 1987 Test, which was drawn. Ironically, one of his most famous knocks at the venue came in a losing cause, against South Africa in 1996. Chasing Proteas’ 403, India had crumbled to 161 for 7. Azhar counter-attacked and made a sensational 109 from 77 balls, smashing 18 fours and a six. He found unexpected support in Anil Kumble, who was run out for 88. However, Gary Kirsten’s twin hundreds, and Daryl Cullinan’s second-innings 153 not out, led South Africa to victory by 329 runs. The Test marked the debuts of Herschelle Gibbs and Lance Klusener, the latter announcing himself with 8 for 64 in India’s second innings.

Mohammad Azharuddin’s record at Eden Gardens: 7 Tests, 860 runs, 107.50 average, 5 hundreds, 182 highest score.