Kolkata: Former chief curator of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) Prabir Mukherjee, who was known for his no-nonsense steadfast approach, died at a city hospital late last night after a prolonged illness.
Mukherjee, 86, was suffering from a liver condition and depression and was being treated at the BNR Hospital since April 11, his grandson Pranay Mukherjee said.
His body, however, was not taken to Eden Gardens in a departure of the tradition followed in the city's cricket fraternity to honour his last wish, Pranay said.
"He was severely depressed and would tell me the way he was 'ill-treated' despite serving 28 years at the Eden.’Please never take me there'," Pranay told PTI.
The veteran curator, who was involved with the Eden Gardens pitch for more than two decades including preparing the wicket for the 1987 World Cup final, had vowed not to return to the stadium after being blamed for the India-South Africa T20 International washout fiasco on October 8, 2015.
Even more than six hours after it had rained in the afternoon, the CAB groundsmen led by Mukherjee could not get the field ready and the third and final T20 was also called off as South Africa had swept the series 2-0.
During that time, Sourav Ganguly was the president-designate of CAB, who had squarely blamed the veteran curator for not covering the entire ground during the afternoon's showers that left the field soggy.
"I never worked for money. I have told them (CAB officials) that I'm not coming back to the Eden again," the snubbed Mukherjee had said and since then the CAB grounds including that of the Eden was managed by Sujan Mukherjee.
However, the CAB officials including joint secretary Subir Ganguly and treasurer Biswarup Dey visited his residence on Prankrishna Mukherjee road near Tala Bridge and paid their last tributes.
CAB's former curator Prabir Mukherjee passes away at 86. RIP Sir pic.twitter.com/YyISKFthDR
— BCCI (@BCCI) June 1, 2016
In his condolence message, CAB joint secretary Avishek Dalmiya, the BCCI chairman of New Area Development Committee who's away in Guwahati, said, "Prabirda's contribution to Bengal cricket has been immense. He was not only involved with the Eden but various grounds across the state."
"He was very close to my father (Jagmohan Dalmiya) who loved him a lot. They formed a close team and worked in tandem. He had also offered his serviceS in Dhaka (in 1998). It's a sad day for Bengal cricket," Avishek added.
No cricket curator has been in the news like Mukherjee who stood firm on his principles, be it against the most successful Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni or former English captain-turned-commentator Michael Atherton.
Mukherjee had turned down Dhoni's request for a square turner against England in December 2012 and instead prepared a good cricket pitch which had bounce from day one.
England went on to win the Test by seven wickets en route to a 2-1 series win.
He did not stop there as he spoke at length to the media and went on sick leave in protest.
During the same series, he once again made headlines when he 'shooed away' English broadcaster Atherton from taking a close look at the pitch and in a firm voice had said, "Please go", a move which was supported by the CAB.
Mukherjee had lost his daughter a few years back and within months his wife passed away but such was his unflinching commitment towards his state association that within days he was back to prepare pitches for the CAB knockout matches.
A fast bowler, who was also a football goalkeeper in the 1940s, Mukherjee became involved with cricket in 1952 after his playing days ended following a road accident.
He started out from the Suburban Club before being elected the secretary of Bengal National Railways Club in 1964, CAB veteran and stadium committee chairman Chitrak Mitra recollected.
Kartik Bose, the then chief coach of the CAB, had introduced him to pitch-making as he was in-charge of the 1987 World Cup final wicket.
He returned to the Eden after Jagmohan Dalmiya brought him back after the infamous World Cup semifinal in 1996.