iconimg Thursday, September 03, 2015

N Ananthanarayanan, Hindustan Times
Mohali, March 14, 2013
Rain was forecast for Thursday, the first day of the third Test between India and Australia, but few expected such a heavy downpour, which lashed the venue before dawn. 

And more mild drizzle through the morning forced the opening day’s play to be abandoned. An unusually bone-dry Punjab Cricket Association stadium pitch, prepared on directions of the cricket board as in Chennai and Hyderabad in keeping with skipper MS Dhoni’s requirement, had seemed a perfect surface for the hosts to resume their domination in the series, which they lead 2-0.

But as the day wore on and it became clear there would be no action, it was frustrating for the India camp.
After burning their fingers in the home series defeat against England, the hosts have been careful not to use the word ‘revenge’ for the 0-4 Test series loss in Australia, but they are thirsting to sweep the series. But any more delay can kill that ambition.

Losing momentum
There had already been some loss of momentum due to the weeklong break between the Hyderabad Test, which India won by an innings, and the Mohali game that gave enough time to Australia to reflect on their shortcomings and plan ways to show some resilience.

According to the original schedule, Mohali would have staged the second Test in the last week of February, and would have been exposed to the fickle weather.

But the large sheets of cover spread over the pitch and most of the field, with plenty of water standing, was not a pretty sight for the home team, or the spectators, a few dozen of whom turned up in the morning before trickling out once it became clear there would be no game. The India players arrived at the ground but quickly returned to their hotel rooms.

Welcome break
For Australia skipper Michael Clarke, the weather intervention must have been the most cheerful news of the week.

Teams trying to save a Test pray for showers but the visitors, who are fighting a battle of credibility, are actually rolling backwards.

The rain applying the brakes could not have been timed any better for the beleaguered side.

Touring can become a cheerless exercise if the team is not up to scratch as Dhoni and company found out in England and Australia.

For Clarke, it was perfect to cool things down after the ruckus caused this week by the tour management’s axing of Shane Watson, batsman Usman Khawaja and pacers Mitchell Johnson and James Pattinson from the Mohali game for not providing the feedback sought by coach Mickey Arthur.

The visitors’ camp would also have been enthused that the covered pitch would now contain more moisture, and would
bind better.

That would give some extra assistance to their pacers while their batsmen will be comforted by the thought that the surface would take more time to break up and give India's spinners outright upper hand.

More rain and a draw would only frustrate the hosts while the Aussies would be happy to have broken the tempo of this series.

The cover was removed at around 3.45pm after the sun finally shone.