TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
THE weather did cricket a favour in Kolkata on Thursday by forcing the abandonment of the third Twenty20 international between India and SA.
Rain stopped falling at around 6pm Indian time, but enough water had soaked into the deeper reaches of the outfield – which were uncovered – to thwart the hardworking groundstaff, who deployed no less than three super soppers in their efforts to dry the ground sufficiently.
Two-and-a-half hours after the scheduled start match referee Chris Broad appeared with members of the umpiring crew for a third pitch inspection. That done the match was called off.
And not a moment too soon: there was no point prolonging a series that was decided on Monday when SA added victory in Cuttack to their win in Dharamsala last Friday.
Ravi Shastri, who has given up paid punditry to become India’s “team director”, found a novel way to put the problem in a nutshell at the post non-match press conference: “There was no wind and the sun doesn’t shine at night.”
Thanks for that, Ravi; we think. Now let’s cross over to MS standing on the squelchy outfield itself …
“This is one venue where you want to play,” Indian captain MS Dhoni said even as the dregs of the crowd drained out of the stark concrete bowl that, on brighter days, pulsates with the passion of up to 66 000 spectators.
“There is a lot of history here and the public here are fantastic.”
That was an unsubtle message to the public of Cuttack, where another kind of rain – a deluge of plastic bottles thrown from the stands onto the field as vexed fans showed how they felt about India’s impending defeat – caused two lengthy interruptions in play.
Unsurprisingly, the weather was not at all gloomy on SA’s side of the boundary.
“It’s important to acknowledge how hard it is to come to India and win any series,” Faf du Plessis said. “We will take a lot of confidence into the one-day series from this, but India will be fresh and will want to prove a point.”
The first of the five one-day internationals will be played in Kanpur on Sunday.
Dhoni, after explaining how important the toss will be at Kanpur, that dew would be a significant factor in the ODIs – only Sunday’s game will not be played under lights – and assuring all who heard him that “we will accept whatever surfaces we are given”, managed to say something that Du Plessis and the rest of the South Africans would have noted carefully: “We don’t want a lot of grass.”
That he shall have. Kanpur produces some of the slowest, lowest pitches even by the standards of a country known for exactly that.
Here’s hoping the South Africans are able to breathe easily enough to laugh at the fact that the ground is called Green Park despite being situated in one of India’s most polluted cities.
But at least both teams’ players should be safe from the fans, who will not be allowed to take water bottles into the stands.