NEW DELHI: For regulars at Kolkata Maidan, Prabir Mukherjee was always that elder brother who could talk about anything without mincing words, even with strangers. For most cricketers and administrators, the 86-year-old was a no-nonsense gentleman, who took the final call about the Eden Gardens wicket.
Mukherjee could go all out against the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and stick to his idea of preparing a sporting wicket. Or, he could even turn down Sachin Tendulkar’s request of increasing the size of the side screen. For most people at Bengal cricket’s headquarters, Mukherjee was no less than a ‘Don’.
However, those stories became a part of cricketing folklore on Tuesday night, when the controversial former curator of Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) breathed his last at his North Kolkata home, rather silently. Suffering from a liver ailment for a fairly long time, Mukherjee’s ties with the Eden Gardens were severed in October last year, after falling out with CAB. Interestingly, for a man who spent half of his time at the Eden Gardens, he had a last wish — that his body should not be taken to the CAB headquarters. “This all happened after he fell out with CAB officials. He was hurt with the way he was mistreated, and unceremoniously axed,” one of Mukherjee’s close friends and a former CAB official, told Express from Kolkata.
Even as top officials visited Mukherjee’s residence, questions remained on whether the veteran curator got his due at Eden Gardens. “He was extremely disappointed. He never came to the stadium after October,” the official added. In his long and illustrious career, Mukherjee was a man of strong principles. Despite taking on the state association and at times, the BCCI, Mukherjee made it a point to produce good wickets, with firm and even bounce. In 2012, he hit the headlines by refusing to dish out a rank turner against England. Even as BCCI intervened, Eden Gardens offered a sporting wicket, and England thumped India convincingly.
In charge of pitches and grounds for close to 25 years, Mukherjee became a part of the CAB in 1979. By the late 1980s, he took charge of the ground and pitch committees, and played a key role when the stadium hosted the World Cup final in 1987. For a man who resumed work days after the death of wife and daughter, staying away from Eden Gardens was a big thing. But with CAB showing him the exit, rather unceremoniously, it was too big a blow for the man, who considered Eden Gardens his ‘first home’!