A small piece of information from a cricketer friend in Kolkata this morning that former chief curator of the Eden Gardens Probir Mukherjee is no more, shook this writer to no end, who has shared a great relationship for decades. Probirda¸ as many would call him in the fraternity, was perhaps the most charismatic curator in the country, if not across the globe.
Locking horns with captains, both Indian and visiting teams, has been a daily dose for many of us who earn their bread and butter through cricket writing. Whenever there was a match at Eden — be it Test, ODI or T20 – the editors across the country would have some space allotted for a pitch controversy story.
The spat with captain cool Mahendra Singh Dhoni though went too far, finally it ended in ProbirDa’s win as the wicket wasn’t changed according to the wish of the then India skipper.
Having the served the Cricket Association of Bengal as a joint secretary, Mukherjee expressed his displeasure on CAB’s stance on several brush-ins with various captains. “October 8, 2015 will be my last day at the Eden,” an almost 86-year-old lanky sportsman told this correspondent sometime last year. That summed up the mood of the octogenarian, who had lost his wife and daughter in a space of six days some three years ago.
Mukherjee, who served the railways as accounts officer, was suffering from a liver condition and depression and was being treated at the BNR Hospital. He breathed his last around 10pm last night. According to sources in Kolkata, Mukherjee’s body was not taken to Eden Gardens, the ground he served for more than 28 years.
Severing all ties with the hollowed cricket turf, he apparently expressed his last wish: ‘not to take his body at the Eden after death’. To honour his wish, the body was not taken to Eden Gardens in a departure of the tradition followed in the cricket fraternity of Bengal.
Besides run-ins with several captains, he earned praise from many though. Last was Team India director Ravi Shastri. On October 8, when the India vs South Africa match was washed out without a ball being bowled due to wet outfield, the entire cricket fraternity targeted the Eden curators, and particularly, Mukherjee. But Shastri came in his defence.
“Where will the water go? It’s rainy season. The ground staff did a great job when I saw the outfield. I think Probir da (curator Mukherjee) should be complemented. Though we didn’t play on it, the pitch even looked good,” Shastri poured cold water to scribes’ quest for a juicy story.
Being a thorough gentleman all through, Mukherjee started his journey as curator of the Eden during the 1987 World Cup. He had lot of respect for legendary cricketers but never bowed down to pressure from them for a square turner. His idea was to unleash a wicket that would behave consistently and his affinity for a tinge of green on the 22 yards are known to almost all.
During big games at Eden, the focus would entirely be on Mukherjee rather than the captains. There will be many curators in the time to come and even some may prove to be more efficient than Mukherjee, but a curator as charismatic as him is rare to find and he will be remembered for his boldness and courage.
Long Live ProbirDa.