The start of a billion-dollar event, really?
Facebook said to me, "The ICC World Twenty20 starts today. Let your friends know if you're excited to watch". Facebook's excitement at the tournament didn't quite make it to the ground.
There is very little exciting about Nagpur. Starting a tournament on a Nagpur pitch is like inviting your friends to your wedding at the tax office. Nagpur's wicket has a reputation as a poor wicket. Recently it was so bad the ICC sent a letter to the VCA about it. Now it is hosting the opening game of the World T20. And it did so, exactly as you would expect it too. With a slow, painful, yawn.
How could you be excited watching the first ball? In came Tanwir Afzal to bowl his accurate slow medium-pace. The ball was short of a length, and four minutes later it arrived to Hamilton Masakadza below stump height. It hit the toe of the bat and plonked a few feet in front of him. That ball was a visual representation of the entire match.
Were the crowd excited? Was there any crowd? The three Afghanistan guys out at deep cover seemed excited. And they were the only ones, excited, or present. Had you told someone there was a billion-dollar sporting event watched around the world, they would have mistaken this for a training day, or that they had gone on the wrong day. There were more people at the ground who were paid to be there, than had paid to be there. Even the security guards couldn't muster the energy to man the metal detectors. Police officers clutched at their brand new lathis with no one here to use them on.
How excited were the ICC? So excited about Ryan Campbell making his Hong Kong debut at 44 that they tweeted a picture of Jamie Atkinson by accident. They were maybe a bit upset that the BCCI ticketing system seemed to be actively discouraging people from coming out to the game. Although they seemed ambivalent to the fact their opening match had people paid more for commentating it than playing in it. And probably a bit worried that people found out they were only using their special magic bails for the "real" tournament, and not this opening round irritant.
Was the cricket exciting? The contest was ended in Zimbabwe's innings when Elton Chigumbura started hitting sixes, which was unfortunate with still more than an innings to play. Hong Kong's innings started with the handbrake on, the car in the garage and the wheels off. Masakadza's running between wickets was the only thing worse, he had the energy to reach his crease, but he couldn't actually be bothered to ground his bat. There was also a ball that started midway down the pitch, was wide, was bowled very slowly, reacted slower off the pitch, and still resulted in a wicket.
Was the cricket public excited? How could they be? They weren't watching the opening of a tournament, they were watching the post-qualifying qualifiers. The ICC can pretend, mislead or dress up this as much as they want, but this wasn't a grand opening to a tournament. No one believes the tournament has started. And this match wasn't going to change their minds, it was the cricket equivalent of a fart in a bottle.
It was drab, nonsensical requalifying to empty stands on a slow low pitch. It wasn't exciting, it was sad.
The last ball of Zimbabwe's innings was a short ball that didn't bounce that was pulled onto the pad and dribbled apologetically a few metres past the umpire. Haseeb Amjad, the unathletic Hong Kong bowler, slowly turned around and realised, to his horror, that he would have to chase the ball himself. Such was his and the ball's speed, that for a time, it was as if time was actually trying to stand still, but was unable to come to a complete stop. It inched forward, because it had too.
This wasn't the game that stopped the world, this was the game that the world wanted to stop, but it happened regardless.
It wasn't the opening of the tournament; it was an elongated cricket yawn live-streamed globally. The cricket world, it would seem, has let the ICC know that it was not excited.
Jarrod Kimber is a writer for ESPNcricinfo. @ajarrodkimber