Kolkata, June 1 (IANS) Former Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) pitch curator Prabir Mukherjee has passed away.
He breathed his last at around 10.30 p.m. on Tuesday night. He was 86.
Mukherjee was in charge for nearly 25 years and had also served as the manager of the Bengal and East Zone teams. His association with CAB began in 1979-80 as the secretary of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) committee.
Mukherjee was suffering from liver problems for the last few years.
He was a former fast bowler and a football goalkeeper in 1940s. A tragic road accident cut short his career, turning him towards career in administration and pitch-making. He started at the Suburban club in 1950s and later moved to the Eden Gardens in 1964, after becoming the secretary of the Bengal National Railways Club.
He was in charge when the 1987 World Cup final was held here and then again in 1996 when Eden hosted the historic World Cup semifinal between India and Sri Lanka.
He retired from his long-held post amidst acrimony and on a bitter note after a T20 international match washout against South Africa last October.
Eden’s old and crumbling drainage system, coupled with the groundsmen’s failure to prepare the ground at a short notice when the rain stopped, were blamed for the no-show.
Mukherjee was held responsible for the fiasco, to which the octogenarian, famous for his uptightness and scattergun mouth, took offense insisting that the ground was playable and it were the umpires who played truant by abandoning the match.
The drama escalated when Indian captain M.S. Dhoni and team director Ravi Shastri said it was sad the famously passionate fans were robbed of action and refused to call the no-show a “collective failure”.
Former India skipper Sourav Ganguly butted into the controversy, saying the failure was a team effort and not squarely dependent on the groundsmen.
Mukherjee was in the midst of numerous controversies during his long tenure and ended his innings on an indistinct note after the rain-abandoned match.
Curator Sujan Mukherjee took over the reins after his withdrawal.
Known for his fluctuating temper, he has famously stopped cricketers, from inspecting the pitch or entering onto the wicket.
He once prevented India batsman Rohit Sharma from inspecting the pitch, resulting in an animated discussion, to be used for the India-West Indies Test match citing rules allowing only the team captain and coach to have a look at the track.
He also famously shooed away former England skipper Mike Atherton, in his capacity as a broadcaster, who had gone close to the pitch during an India-England Test.
The tall, spectacled, man did not even spare Dhoni when he asked him for a rank turner for a Test against England.
“It is immoral and illogical to tamper with the pitch as per the liking of the captain. I have not done it in my life. So I want to get rid of it,” Mukherjee had said in 2012, when Dhoni was still the skipper of the Indian Test side.
To protest again Dhoni’s demands he had gone on sick-leave and returned to make a wicket with grass and bounce. India lost the Test by seven wickets.
Dhoni later hailed Mukherjee saying he was the “boss of Eden”.
Famous for being old fashioned, strict and determined to uphold the traditional values of the game, Mukherjee also hogged the limelight when he stopped Sachin Tendulkar and former Australian captain Ricky Ponting from entering the wicket.
But all his idiosyncrasies went a tad too far during a Bengal-Baroda Ranji match in October last year and eventually caught up with him when the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) barred him from speaking to the media after the match failed to commence despite favourable weather.
Mukherjee remained defiant, starting a slide that only culminated in humiliation rather than a glorified walk into sunset after the South Africa washout.
CAB joint secretary Subir Ganguly and treasurer Biswaroop Dey visited his residence to pay their last tributes.
The other CAB joint secretary Avishek Dalmiya, who is in Guwahati, termed the death of Mukherjee as a personal loss.
“He has been very close to our family and to me. His contribution to cricket has been immense. A lot of quality cricket has happened under his leadership, under his guidance. He has also been awarded as the best curator on a number of occasions by the BCCI,” Dalmiya told IANS.
“He was a senior member, a respected person and his contribution has been enormous. It is a huge loss to Bengal cricket and cricket in the east zone. Very Sad to hear about it, will personally meet his family after I return. It is a personal loss,” he said.