What a day! If you're a diehard cricket fan, you would have spent it like me. On the edge of your seat - perhaps your cubicle seat. Me? My work allows me to lounge on the edge of my couch :)
Anyway, it was a great day. After the pasting we received in Nagpur, I was certain that we would hand South Africa the #1 ranking on a platter. We just couldn't win without Dravid and Laxman, could we? Then came the news that Laxman would play. I breathed a little.
By the end of Day 1 at the Eden Gardens, we had engineered a batting collapse and clawed back into contention. Then four centuries by the four most experienced batsmen in the side ensured that we were firmly on the driver's seat. Sehwag set the tone. And when he does that, the opposition bowlers lose the will to live. Which, in turn, makes it easier for the batsmen who follow. But that takes nothing away from Laxman and Dhoni. They could have fallen cheaply and embarassingly like Badrinath. Instead, they stuck it out and gave us a large enough lead to press for an innings defeat.
We know what happened over the next two days. Harbhajan lived up to his billing - he does this once in a while while at other times looks like the most overrated cricketer in the world. Mishra too spun a few good ones. Ishant showed grit. And we managed to win despite the absence of our pace spearhead on Day 5.
En route, Hashim Amla made our bowlers shed blood-red tears. Talk about being on a royal purple patch!
But despite our heartwarming performance, I feel annoyed at the BCCI. More specifically, at the way they choose the venues for our beloved sport. Surely these folks have been given rudimentary lessons in subcontinental geography? Surely they know our climate patterns (considering that the incumbent President is also the Union Agriculture Minister)? And surely they know that we have one time zone for the whole country and therefore the light fades a lot earlier in our eastern cities?
Apparently not. There is a rotation policy in place for venues. And the BCCI sticks to it. Well, in a manner of speaking.
Nagpur has its very own "special rotation policy". Sometimes the first match of the series is played in the Jamtha stadium, sometimes the last and sometimes a match in the middle is played there. That's probably because a certain politician-cum-cricket administrator wants to ensure that the people of Viderbha remember him at all times. How else can one explain the fact that since November 2008, Nagpur has hosted two Test matches, two ODIs and one T20 match? You haven't heard a peep about this from any of our prominent experts, have you? Well, we'll let it pass. We'll assume that the visiting cricketers insist on playing in regions that grow oranges. And therefore Nagpur must figure in every series (and it has except for the India-Eng series in 2008).
But let's look at some other interesting choices of venue:
1) The first Test between India and England in 2008
The chosen venue was Chennai. The dates: December 11-15. Even a crackling dry city like Chennai expects rainfall in December. I remember my 7th standard geography teacher mentioning something about the North-East monsoon. This, if memory serves me right, affects the eastern parts of the country and is particularly active in the south-eastern coastal cities between October and December.
And guess what: the Met department issued a cyclone warning on Dec 9th, denying the visiting team sufficient net practice on the ground. It was a small miracle that the Test was played out fully and there was a result: a brilliant batting display in the 4th innings, especially by Sachin, ensured an Indian victory.
This brilliance, mind you, almost didn't happen. Chennai in December indeed!
2) The second Test of the same series
The chosen venue was Mohali. The dates: December 19-23. Peak winter in North India. A few score miles east, the Delhi airport would have been foggy enough to halt flights. Mohali would have been marginally better. Marginally. Luckily, only 18 overs were lost to bad light and that happened on Day 1. The match was a dull draw. It would have been duller had bad light intervened each day, as it did in Kolkata in four out of the past five days.
3) The first Test between India and Australia in 2008
The chosen venue was Bangalore. The dates: October 9-13. Well. Tough one. September is statistically the rainiest month in Bangalore. October is not far behind. Bangalore receives rainfall from both the South-West and the North-East. It also receives pre-summer showers, post-winter showers and pre-monsoon showers. In all, it receives a fifth of the rainfall the other side of the Sahyadri range receives. But, well, the point is, the light fades fast and it could rain at any time of the year. If I must schedule a Test match in Bangalore (and I don't see why I must, since we have such a poor track record there!), I'd do it in February-March. Other months, we're better off playing elsewhere.
And guess what happened in this particular game? Sachin and Laxman plodded through Day 5 and gave us a draw. Bad light halted play, just as I had predicted on my city column in the New Indian Express, which appeared on the morning of Day 5. Vindicated :)
These are just three stark examples from recent Test matches. If I start scanning the ODI venues, I'd find more such issues.
So to the head honchos of the BCCI, I'd offer the following thumb rules:
1) Play our summer matches on our eastern front. A city like Guwahati hosting, say a day ODI in November, is a bad, bad idea. Let Guwahati, Kolkata, Cuttack, Ranchi and Vizag get matches between March-August.
2) Play our peak winter matches in the western and south-western cities such as Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Baroda, Kochi, Panjim etc.
3) Avoid peak winter games north and east of Bhopal.
4) Pay heed to the monsoon. If you schedule a match in Mumbai in July, you're making a mockery of the sport and showing disrespect to its fans.
5) If you want to ignore the single time zone factor, convince the ICC to allow the use of floodlights in Test matches. The white apparels will not get tainted by artificial light. No, they won't.
Overall, it was a miracle that we won today at the Eden Gardens, given that we lost two-thirds of Day 4 to bad weather. Had Morkel survived another 4 overs, we'd have been cursing the weather Gods instead of cursing the decision-makers.