Gushing success or damp squib?
The inaugural Videocon Cup in Amsterdam got off to a flyer on August 21 as two old enemies, India and Pakistan, clashed in a 10,000 sellout at Amstelveen, with Pakistan emerging victorious in an entertaining tussle.
If only the rest of the tri-series tournament, in which Australia completed the guest-list of party-hosts Holland, had continued so well. Alas, an even older cricketing foe - rain - spoiled everyone's fun, by loudly intruding on the party like an unwanted, rather badly behaved guest. Poor attendances also marked these matches - even for the final, the ground was half-empty.
The rain had stomped away by the day of the closely fought final, in which Australia defeated Pakistan by 17 runs, but not before it had upset a few guests - not least the owners of the television rights, Indian broadcaster Sony Max, who triggered their right to reduce their $6million sponsorship guarantee if any matches were not completed. In the end, the three teams were in line to settle for around a mere $1.5million per board for their appearances. Poor Holland, meanwhile: they stood to profit only from gate receipts for organising the shindig.
The 36mm of apparently unexpected rain which fell during the tournament washed out most of the preliminary games and led to a final many felt was unfair and not a little farcical, as only one match of the tri-series had been completed beforehand. And even that group game - the India/Pakistan opener - did not escape from a downpour, with the match being reduced to 33 overs-a-side.
As it was, the rain on the opening day spared the organisers' blushes. They had refused to ship any tickets abroad, leaving bemused spectators to queue while tickets were manually printed by a staff of two people.
And once they had their ticket, fans had to queue again, this time for the privilege of being shoehorned through the only entrance. To prevent a riot breaking out among the increasingly impatient fans who faced missing the start of the match, police had to open the gates to allow them to sweep in en masse. But spirits were soon high, helped perhaps by the open smoking by some in the stands of a certain substance oft-associated with Amsterdam.
Where another, more traditional, relaxing agent was concerned - beer - the organisers had failed to realise the Indian supporters' penchant for the wet stuff. They could only watch helplessly as tents, and their profits, ran dry early on. Now the 6000 Indian fans who had travelled from England, Austria and Norway could not even drown their sorrows as Pakistan claimed the win.
The thirsty fans, at least, had more luck on the food front, with salmon bagels and hot chicken focaccia made for them to order - this meant more queueing, of course, but the organisers were forgiven on this occasion. Any fans returning to The Oval and Lord's may have difficulty readjusting to the prospect of impenetrable pizza and teeth-breaking tortellini.
While the culinary efforts were overdone by the organisers - although nobody was overheard complaining - security was a little undercooked. The Dutch police were overawed by the India and Pakistan supporters' post-match exuberance as they spilled onto the field to surround the players. No harm was done on this occasion, fortunately, but it is something the Amstelveen authorities must bear in mind in future - especially as both Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly have featured on recent terrorist hit-lists.
The no-result from the opener left India praying that Pakistan could defeat Australia by a huge margin in the remaining group match to stand a chance of featuring in the final, after their own match against Australia was washed out. But again the rains came.
Any talk of extending the tournament or rescheduling matches was squarely dismissed by Australia, who further dampened the mood with their downbeat objections. They argued that playing three matches in four days would be too much for their players, and also drew attention to their obligations to play in the Champions Trophy in England - for which the Videocon was essentially a warm-up.
So, Australia faced Pakistan in a low-scoring final on August 29, as per the original schedule, in what was the tournament's only rainless match. If not entirely a success this time, there is no reason to strangle the VideoCon Cup in its infancy - or to move it out of Holland, as may happen. Many of the teething issues can be ironed out for 2005 - better security and more beer would be a good start.
One obvious move would be, as the vast majority of fans are travelling from England, it would make more sense to shift the tournament to England next year. After all, as demonstrated, it is equally likely to rain in Holland. But that would be to overlook the fun of a trip abroad.
At last, England-based fans have a short-haul, fairly inexpensive option to see a burst of international cricket overseas, as the Netherlands is but a budget flight away.
Amsterdam itself, of course, is always a popular destination for many reasons... not just cricket-related. And it isn't only the fans for whom the tournament provides a short break. Pakistan's Inzamam-ul-Haq - perhaps speaking for all of the players - declared at the closing ceremony that he viewed the tournament as, essentially, a holiday. So party on.
Jenny Thompson is editorial assistant of Wisden Cricinfo.