'There is no construction work left'
The famed Eden Gardens, which resembles a battlefield with renovation work going on in full gear ahead of the ICC team's final inspection for the World Cup, might paint a sorry picture, but the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) is optimistic that it will be ready in time.
Having missed deadlines to finish the work twice already -- November 30, 2010 and January 15 this year -- the CAB this time promises to hand over the World Cup venue on January 31.
"There is no construction work left. There are only a few things here and there that need to be fixed. Once the fitting is done, the venue will be ready and we will hand it over on January 31," CAB joint-secretary Biswarup Dey said on Monday.
Image: Eden Gardens
'Eden Gardens will be ready in time'
However, the sight of the Eden Gardens in shambles paints a different picture, with heavy iron beams, bricks and mortar and tons of garbage lying all over the stadium as the bulldozers work overtime to clear the mess less than 24 hours before the ICC delegation's visit.
But the CAB maintained that all is well with Eden Gardens.
Asked if he was happy with the progress, CAB supreme Jagmohan Dalmiya shot back, "Then why are we here for? We would have given up long time ago if we were not happy... This is not the first time we are hosting a big tournament like this. We have already hosted World Cup matches twice (final in 1987 and semi-final in 1996)."
Giving an example of hosting back-to-back matches during the Hero Cup in 1993, Dalmiya said, "We hosted two semi-finals and the final of the Hero Cup and never ever our organisational capability has been doubted.
"It's the media that pressed the panic button and created a general misconception. Renovation work is done based on the existing basic structure of the stadium and it will be ready in time."
Image: Jagmohan Dalmiya
The ground reality, however, is that the much-talked about Press Box and VIP enclosures are yet to be ready as they are temporarily used as go downs for building materials or as shelters for construction workers.
The bucket seats are yet to be fixed in the upper tiers of five blocks of A, B, C, K and L while the basic amenities of toilets are in a spot of bother with building materials strewn all over as puddles have formed here and there acting as breeding ground for mosquitoes.
Even the main entry and the path that leads to the dressing room is locked and heavily dusted and is under construction.
But the CAB joint-secretary said there was nothing to worry about.
"These minor things will remain even a day before the match. We will have to clean and clear even on the eve of a match," Dey said.
As far as the safety-related measures, the fire officials are in dark as they can only carry out the inspection once the renovation work gets over.
"We will visit the Eden Gardens after the renovation work is complete and only then we can say how much the CAB has complied with the directives that we wanted," Debapriya Biswas, director-general of the fire department, has said earlier.
Image: Work continues at the Eden Gardens
'The pitch will be that of a typical one-day one'
Amid all the rubble, the silver lining, however, is that the ground and the dressing rooms are ready.
"The pitch and the ground is ready. The pitch will be that of a typical one-day one," curator Prabir Mukherjee said of the pitch that will host the first World Cup match on February 27 when India face England.
In a US $32 million project, the CAB retained the team of Burt, Hill and VMS of Ahmedabad to renovate the 50-year-old Eden Gardens.
Incidentally, Burt Hill Inc in their website has stated that the project was scheduled to be unveiled in December and it involves complete restructuring of the stadium, including replacing the decades-old concrete seats with comfortable world-class plastic chairs.
"It also includes a new clubhouse and players' facilities, upgrades to the exterior wall, a new metal skin for the existing roof, and upgraded patron amenities... to being an eye-catching stadium for the World Cup."
Image: Eden Gardens
Eden Gardens is scheduled to host four group matches
Dismissing speculation, the BCCI and the ICC have earlier said the venue would be ready.
The tournament director and also the chief administrative officer of the BCCI Ratnakar Shetty had earlier singled out Eden Gardens in Kolkata, Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, Pallkele Stadium and Hambantota Stadium in Sri Lanka as the venues where the renovation work is still on but will be ready for the quadrennial event.
The renovation of the stadium and replacement of the concrete galleries with more comfortable bucket seats means that the capacity of 85,000 will have been reduced to about 60,000 when complete.
The CAB is also overhauling the dressing rooms lay out, furniture, illumination, air-conditioning, the 17-year-old floodlights, the first to be installed in a cricket ground in the sub-continent.
In their final round of inspection, the team of the ICC and BCCI, which is inspecting the Wankhede on Monday, will visit Eden Gardens on Tuesday.
The team had earlier visited the Eden Gardens on December 9.
Eden Gardens is scheduled to host four group matches -- India v England on February 27, Ireland v South Africa on March 15, Ireland v Netherlands on March 18 and Kenya v Zimbabwe on March 20.
Image: Ratnakar Shetty