Kolkata : Terming as “immoral and illogical” Indian captain M.S. Dhoni’s insistence on a square turner from the opening day of the Eden Gardens Test against England, veteran pitch curator Prabir Mikherjee Saturday said he would stay away from the ground for a month.
The 83-year-old Mukherjee, however, initially tried to hedge his anger, citing health and family issues for his decision.
“Last (Friday) evening I was not feeling good. I had high pressure. The doctors attended to me and told me to take rest for at least one month. Only six months back I lost my only daughter and wife. The condition at home is not at all well,” Mukherjee told the media, even as he chose not to come to the ground Saturday morning.
However, he burst out when pressed further on the issue.
“Dhoni is openly asking for a square turner from the very first day. This is immoral. You (organisers) have taken money for a five-day Test match. But Dhoni is asking for square turner where the match will end in three days. You are robbing people of two days play.
“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,” said Mukherjee, who has been the Eden curator for around 15 years.
Lashing out at Dhoni, he said: “You are on contract, you are getting crores from the board to play good cricket. The contract never said they will be allowed this (square turner).
“Every state has its own climatic conditions. What you get in Mumbai, you will not get in Kolkata because of the difference in climate.”
Asked to spell out his idea of a ideal track, Mukherjee said: “I am of the belief that cricket is a batsman oriented game. Cricket should be played on a firm even bounce wicket.”
The curator, a former Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) joint secretary, complained that the Dhoni fiat was not being given in writing.
“They are not giving it in writing. If they give in writing I can say they are honest.”
Saying the curator’s job was his passion, not a profession, Mukherjee said: “I don’t want to be a party to tampering the pitch at Eden Gardens. So that if anything goes wrong, I won’t be hanged.”
Mukherjee felt aggrieved after the Board of Control for Cricket in India, acting on Dhoni’s demand for a dust bowl, moved its East Zone curator Ashish Bhowmick to Eden to supervise the pitch preparation alongside the octogenarian.
BCCI secretary Sanjay Jagdale also called up CAB and spoken to Mukherjee asking him not to talk to the media and keep in mind the Indian captain’s wish regarding the track.
In Mumbai’s Wankhede stadium, the Indians were given a turner but the home spinners failed to come good on it. However, the English slow bowlers excelled, resulting in a 10 wicket triumph for the visitors.
“I read the Mumbai curator saying he will lose his job if he talks,” said Mukherjee. But he had nothing against Bhowmick.
The new curator (from Tripura) is a good chap. He is a good learner. Unfortunate he can’t say I won’t do this. because he is just starting. On the other hand, I am at the fag end of my life.”
Mukherjee said during the last 15 years, except a break of 20 months in between, Eden Gardens and the CAB had helped him grow.
“I am proud that my name is now attached to Eden Gardens and I am now well known in the world of cricket.”
CAB treasurer Biswarup Dey said he would go to Mukehrjee’s residence and try to convince him to change his mind.
“Only four days are left before the Test starts. We need him. If he is hurt, we will try to mollify him.”
But Dey said he saw nothing wrong in Dhoni asking for the home advantage. “It happens all over the world”.