Forty-two degree celsius is not the best temperature to play cricket in, but the sport has moved on from being just a seasonal game played in the winters here.
And in India, where cricket is worshipped like religion, nothing comes in between the game and its devout followers.
On Saturday, the Sardar Patel Stadium swelled like a turgid river during high tide. Braving the vesuvian heat, spectators thronged the ground like devotees to a pilgrimage spot.
Though the star of the show, Chris Gayle, failed to turn up for the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), the crowd danced and sang at every given opportunity.
Ahmedabad was billed as the next best home base for the Rajasthan Royals (after Jaipur), but till Friday it was short of showing complete allegiance to the home team.
On Saturday, Shane Warne ensured that his team got full home support. The Royals registered their first win of this season and the crowd celebrated their win.
Electing to bat, the Royals got off to an inauspicious start. Ashok Dinda’s first ball caught Michael Lumb plumb for a leg-before decision.
Faiz Fazal seemed to pull things back by working himself in, but a misadventure against Shane Bond proved costly. Unable to control his shot against a short ball, Fazal ballooned a simple catch to Cheteshwar Pujara at mid-off.
Yusuf Pathan continued his lean patch after the Mumbai heroics and fell cheaply. His two lusty hits brought cheer, but he left as quickly as he had come. Barring Abhishek Junjhunwala’s 36-ball 45 and Adam Voges’s unbeaten 37, the Royals’ batting was as flat as the atmosphere on a dry Saturday evening.
The Royals sprung a surprise by opening the bowling with Pathan. And the all-rounder struck in his second over.
The idea was to stem the initial run flow and Pathan gave away just 12 runs in his first two overs.
It checked the KKR scoring and even though Pujara and Brad Hodge picked the gaps, they failed to launch the big hits. The pressure showed when Pujara’s attempted scoop shot did him in.
But Hodge pressed on until Pathan splintered his stumps with a peach of a delivery. The Royals’ all-rounder made up for his failure with the bat returning figures of 4-0-23-2.
After three defeats on the trot, the Royals finally found their rhythm back against KKR.
A thrilling 34-wicket win will give the team the much-needed boost and from now on, write off the Royals at your own peril.