How does it feel watching a Test match in a nearly empty stadium, which when full, would have nearly thirty thousand spectators creating a cacophony of sounds piercing your eardrums? If you are a purist for whom Test cricket is the ultimate test of intricate skills, it should be a heartbreaking experience.
Test cricket is a dying spectator sport, especially in India, and when a venue like Mohali, with no cricketing tradition, is created, people are bound to give it a miss. When Inderjit Singh Bindra, an Indian Administrative Service officer, built this magnificent stadium next to the spaciously designed Chandigarh, he had ignored the claims of Punjab’s traditional cricket hubs in Amritsar, Jalandhar and Patiala. He created an oasis in a cricketing desert of Mohali and the people of Punjab are bearing the negative consequences of this imprudent decision.
The stadium itself is designed for an intimate experience of the action in the middle and watching a match in the pleasant weather of the approaching winter can be a pleasurable exercise in self indulgence. What is sport, after all, if not a meaningless pursuit of an athletic activity, where competing sets of skills try to outdo each other. It is like passing time without doing anything tangible and can be a metaphor for the futility of life itself.
The Test match and the Indian triumph, many feel, was decided even before a ball was bowled. Just like the South Africans, or for that matter all other foreign teams, design wickets to suit their strengths, the Indians had prepared a wicket that had sucked the life out of the South African fast bowlers. It was a dustbowl where the slow, spinning ball was a harbinger of death and destruction.
And among the three purveyors of this destructive skill in the Indian team was Ravichandran Ashwin, a young man of considerable talent, whose spinning fingers obey the command of a creative mind with clockwork precision. This blending of mind, body and sporting skill unleashed through a leather ball to tease and torment the batsmen to their inevitable doom, is what makes Ashwin a specimen to marvel at.
If he can replicate these acts of wizardry in conditions half as favourable as those in Mohali, then the world will have discovered another of those geniuses who make watching sport such an enriching experience. An experience that can be an end in itself and the reason why people can be drawn to watch a sporting contest, despite mulling over its futility in the larger scheme of their existence.