Natahn, Danel and the Black Cats

If there has been an aspect of this Test more disappointing than the pitch, it must be the audience. Rahul Dravid, on the very first day, said that he was "maybe a little disappointed" at the low turnout, but pointed out that it was tough to get away to watch cricket on a weekday. Saturday brought no appreciable increase, however, and only on Sunday afternoon was the ground filled to even half its capacity. The oppressive heat and the soulless wicket may have had something to do with it, but what little crowd there was, right from New Zealand banner-waving cheerleader Sonny Shaw to Parthiv Patel's classmates, ensured the noise levels remained high, even if the audience count wasn't.


For five days, the scoreboard at the Sardar Patel stadium listed New Zealand players who may not be immediately recognizable. Natahn Astle and Craig McMillian, of those players, did particularly well. Daryl Tufey and Danel Vettori were two other similarly misnamed. Astle, incidentally, was just "a little crocked," according to Lou Vincent, and hence his late arrival at the crease. One journalist, however, spotted Astle coughing and sneezing vehemently at his breakfast table, while a New Zealand reporter, after a visit to the dressing rooms just before lunch, told of how Astle was resting flat on his back, and how Mark Richardson was none too bonny either. "It just happens sometimes," said Vincent. "You try to be careful, and then one day you brush your teeth in the tap water and something happens, or you just happen to catch the flu."


Finally a vehicle with a more extensive security convoy than the Indian team's arrived at the Motera stadium. Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat, arrived silently and stalked into the stadium, surrounded by Black Cat commandos. Narhari Amin, the president of the Gujarat Cricket Association, escorted him to a glass-fronted room next to the AIR cubicle, from where Modi watched Craig McMillan and Nathan Astle grind the bowling. Just before the presentation ceremony, Modi was kept waiting for almost 10 minutes as officials scurried about, waving frantically for the teams to come out of their dressing rooms. Whopping big cheque and trophy presented, Modi left as swiftly and unremarkably as he came.


The pitch had the final word, so the final word on the pitch. One Gujarat junior cricketer says that it should have been no surprise that this wicket played as it did. Around one month before the Test match, BCCI pitches committee chairman Venkat Sundaram dropped in to assess a 40-over-a-side match played between Gujarat's Ranji probables. The side batting first made only 165, and the surface, the cricketer says, played exactly like this one - nothing in it for the fast bowlers and only slow, slight turn for the spinners. Sundaram seemed happy with that, for the surface was virtually replicated for the first Test.

Samanth Subramanian is sub editor of Wisden Cricinfo in India.