By: Yajurvindra Singh
December 3rd, 2021 : The famous lines from a nursery rhyme, “Rain rain go away, little Johnny wants to play”, fits perfectly with the situation that has arisen before the Test match to be played between New Zealand and India.
Being a two-Test match series, the Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai encounter is a must-win for India at home. The reason for this is two-fold. One is to get all the winning points allotted in the quest to qualify for the second World Test Championship. The other is to regain their identity of being the best Test team in the world. The defeat against New Zealand in the finals of the inaugural Test Championship was quite a blow to India’s ego.
The first Test match at Kanpur was within India’s grasp of signalling their superiority through a win. However, New Zealand hung on to the last ball to save themselves.
Whoever said that Test cricket was boring must be squirming with embarrassment. The fifth day’s play was a theatrical performance with every session being an engrossing act. Just when one thought the curtains were to come down, the Indian pantomime performers from both the sides came forth prominently. The “Ravis” and the “Patels” came to the fore — Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel versus the Indian born New Zealanders, Rachin Ravindra and Ajaz Patel.
Every ball in the last half hour of play was a battle between the bat and the ball. The Indian bowlers tried every trick in the book before finally accepting a draw from the die-hard stubborn resistance of the Indian New Zealanders. “Ravi” the sun god also played his part by giving India that ray of hope by coming out of the dense clouds. One felt that it was a clear sign of blessings for India, but unfortunately it was to no avail.
This takes one back to the famous India versus New Zealand drawn Test match that took place in Hyderabad in 1969/70. India were chasing 268 runs to win and were 76 for 7 when rain came down. Uncannily enough, one gathers that the rain poured heavily only in the stadium area of the city. Apparently, the ground staff did not do a good job in clearing the water-logged ground once it stopped raining and India were saved not only from losing the Test match but also the series.
Therefore, the drawn result in Kanpur could be construed to be one that finally evened out for New Zealand after 50 long years.
The foggy atmosphere during the match in Kanpur and the daily early end to the day’s play and the match due to poor light is a true reflection of the climate change taking place all around the world.
Rains in Mumbai in the month of December show the unpredictability of the weather on account of it. This was a month when cricket in Mumbai was enjoyed to the fullest, as the evening breeze brought a relief to the long hard day of cricket.
Rain was never an issue, however, the uncertainties that the game provides has a new contender in the heavens above.
What was earlier associated with the uncertain English weather has now become a phenomena around the world. So many matches are getting affected by light and rain delays.
Mumbai, the epicentre of Indian cricket is hosting a Test match after five long years. The last match played was against England in 2016 when India won. However, New Zealand have also tasted success in 1988 at the Wankhede Stadium and with the unseasonal rain they must be hoping that the conditions assist them to score another win at the venue.
New Zealand may look like a beaten side on paper after having escaped defeat, but in India, for a visiting side to draw a match, is as much of a booster as winning is. This is why one feels that this is a consistent New Zealand side which could be a very dangerous outfit in their next outing.
India, on the other hand, have the perennial problem of selecting their playing eleven. The batting and bowling combination and the players selected will have that extra pressure to perform as India are immediately touring South Africa thereafter. All the players’ aim will be to be selected for the tour.
The Kanpur Test had one humorous aspect to it. Mayank Agarwal fielding at gully was on his knees and haunches hoping to catch the ball because of the lack of bounce if it snicked the bat. There was a question as to whether this was acceptable in the rule book of cricket. This took one back to the days when one played “French cricket” when one was on bended knees attempting to catch the ball.
One was amazed as to how this new fielding stance could be beneficial, especially as one is not in a position to be agile. Yes! This would be an ideal way to pray and hope that the rain stays away from Mumbai for what looks like a cricket battle to savour.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Test cricketer. Views expressed are personal.)