Two hours before the scheduled start of play, bouts of overnight rain at the Manuka Oval had left the fate of the day's play hanging in the balance. A member of India’s support staff was not pleased with the conditions and the scheduled forecast for the day.
In a passing comment, he told head curator Brad van Dam, “If it’s raining over here, we might as well go to Melbourne.” That one comment soon spiralled out of control and led to rumours that India will abandon the three-day match and head straight to Melbourne, logistics and logic be damned.
Of course, no such move was ever on the cards, and in the end when the clouds lifted and the sun came out, India got a good 50 overs of play. After a shaky start which saw India reduced to 84 for 4, the last pair of specialist batsmen, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, stitched together an unbeaten 72-run partnership to help steady the ship and guide the visitors to 162 for 4 at stumps on the first day.
After the delayed 1.40 pm start, Virender Sehwag appeared intent to make up for lost time. However, a loose shot off lanky pacer Peter George saw him walk back to the pavilion.
If Sehwag’s shot selection was poor, then Ajinkya Rahane’s was even more lackadaisical as he edged one to the slip cordon off left-arm pacer Josh Lalor. Gautam Gambhir had a solid stint in the middle but misjudged a Jason Behrendorff delivery that rattled the timber.
VVS Laxman was also soon back, clean bowled by left-arm orthodox Jon Holland as he tried to flick a ball that he failed to read properly.
As Rohit Sharma walked out to bat, a section of the crowd, which had applauded the dismissal of every Indian batsman, started chanting “Rohit, Rohit”, quite like the “Sachin, Sachin” chants one hears at most cricket grounds with the first cheer long and beseeching, and the second with a greater deal of urgency.
Rohit looked in greater form from the outset and soon pierced one through to the off-side towards the Bradman Stand where the bunch were seated.
Kohli and Rohit were soon matching each other shot for shot. However, the loudest cheers were saved for Rohit. In fact, even when Kohli nudged one for a single and reached his fifty, the group of fans chanted, “Rohit, Rohit”, before they corrected themselves to “Kohli, Kohli”.