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November rain kills Johannesburg thrills

Sporadic downpours result in the negation of the first India-South Africa ODI, reports Kadambari Murali.

india Updated: Nov 20, 2006 12:50 IST

The man manning the electronic signboard at the Wanderers on Sunday (and it had to be a man and a chauvinist at that if the messages through the day were any indication!) sure did get it wrong when he wrote, “The rain is like my marriage, it ended.”

In the next part of his message, he at least got the forecast right, if it did reiterate that he was sexist: “The rain is like my wife — keeps coming back and irritating (me).”

Anyway, there was only one way to describe the Wanderers — wet, wet, wet. If this is summer in South Africa, then gosh, what must winters be! It was really cold, windy and quite horrible for cricket. Eventually, after four hours of frustrating wait, the match was finally called off at 6:45 in the evening.

The whole cricketing caravan will now move to Durban on Monday morning, hopeful of getting a game there. Incidentally, rain is forecast for Durban too, but you have got to hope. Sunday, by the way, saw the kind of weather that even locals were surprised by. Normally, the rain here comes in the form of a sharp thundershower that lasts half an hour or so, after which the sky clears up and allows play — shortened and probably stopped frequently, but play all the same. The slow rain through the day was unusual and unexpected.

And for the crowd at the Wanderers, about 25,000 screaming South African and Indian fans in equal numbers, all set for a massive, noisy bash, a number that dwindled dramatically as the evening wore on, this had to be a massive disappointment. For the most, though, they good-naturedly braved the showers and stayed on, singing along with Bob Marley and the rest who kept them going from the loudspeakers placed around the stadium.

But as the afternoon wore on and the sun refused to shine and the floodlights provided scant artificial comfort, they got quieter and resigned to the fact that this was one party that wasn’t going to take off.

Initially, though, they did try and keep up the tempo, especially with the interactive signboard coming up with funny somethings from time to time — if you could ignore the sexism! The signs ranged from ones asking the crowd if they’d like to see a wet T-shirt competition to some with greater relevance to the game.

Sachin Tendulkar may not have appreciated this one: “He may be three foot three but no mystery, watch the master blaster.” Or this one: “Y’ello India, welcome to SA”, followed by a request to “please be fair”, which, in turn, was answered by one that looked suspiciously like a put-up job by the Indian team, a question to the Proteas: “SA, can you control Dhoni? Viru, India.”

Talking of Viru, as the toss didn’t happen, it wasn’t definite that India’s most important finger at the moment would have been fit to take the field, but by every account other than the official one, Sehwag would have played.

When umpires Billy Doctrove and Brian Jerling finally called off play, it was actually a relief. It had been a terribly trying day, the kind that gets on everyone’s nerves.

For the cynics in the crowd, though, there was some perverse relief. “At least India won’t lose five-nil,” said one. Rahul Dravid and his bunch in blue should really try and prove all their doubters wrong. It is high time. The rain gods permitting, of course.