Not a ball bowled in Kochi

Heavy rains force premature abandonment of first game

Not a ball bowled in Kochi

An expectant crowd of around 30,000 let out a huge roar, only to realise moments later that the opener of the three-match one-day series between India and Australia had already been called off.

Though the host organisation hoped against hope to get the match started, even if only a truncated one, a sharp spell of rain in the morning just after the first inspection by match referee Chris Broad and on-field umpires Billy Bowden and Amish Saheba at 9.00 am literally poured water on their aspirations.

The trio had scheduled its next two visits to assess the conditions at 11.00 am and then 1.00 pm, but once the rains intensified, the playing control team had no choice but to declare as early as 10.15 am that no play was going to be possible. This is the first instance of a match being washed away since the venue, which has hosted six matches so far, made its debut in 1997 against Mark Taylor’s Australia. 

A huge number of spectators, braving the rains and a potential wash-out, had painted the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium blue to witness the men in blue in action after three years, but they had to return home disappointed even before they could soak in the atmosphere here on Sunday, the only consolation for the crowds being the news that their ticket-money would be refunded.

Players from both sides remained closeted in their hotel while some of the Australians chose to tweet on the possibility of the match. “Having a chill-out session with (David) Warner. Rain coming down again outside. No game today, I don’t think,” wrote leg-spinning all-rounder Steven Smith on twitter.

A sort of ennui was enveloping the cricketers, who haven’t had a proper practice session since their arrival in the port city on Thursday, and Sunday’s abandonment did little to rid them of their boredom. “I think all the boys are sick to be going to the gym,” Aussie skipper Michael Clarke had quipped when asked about his team’s preparations for the match on Saturday.

“We haven’t done much really, to be honest, though we have done a lot of rehab, recovery, strength and conditioning and a bit of time in the pool... We are really keen to get outside and play the first one-dayer. I think it’s been good for the body to heal with no cricket in the last two-three days. But we are very keen to play tomorrow (Sunday),” he had noted. 

Despite hundreds of ground staff working round the clock to get the ground in shape for play, the damage caused by the rains of the past four days was way too much to fix. There were wet patches all around the turf and the boundary line was dotted with muddy spaces. Even the bowlers’ run-up area remained slushy.

“The wicket was wonderful but we have no control over the weather. The outfield was wet and the rains interrupted our efforts, we tried our best,” rued curator Parthasarathy Kannan. To have even a 20-overs-a-side affair, the game could have begin no later than 2.17 pm subject to improvement in ground conditions, but the sharp rain just after the officials’ maiden visit drove the final nail in the coffin.     

The forecast for the remaining two matches in Visakhapatnam (Oct 20) and Goa (Oct 24) isn’t encouraging either, and if the worst fears are to come true, then this series is likely to meet a watery grave.

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