Midsummer madness

Towards the end, he was reduced to walking singles, one of the fittest men in the side reduced to a heat-exhausted wreck by the capricious whims and fancies of a cricket board that cares only about two things - the bottom line and top dollar.

And if the BCCI has its way, Rahul Dravid and his fellow players might have to play ten more such games over the space of the next month, with efforts on to squeeze in five ODIs against Sri Lanka at the completion of this Pakistan tour. If the weather conditions resemble those experienced at Kochi today, the series sponsor might as well be some manufacturer of IV drips.

To say that the conditions were inhuman would be the mildest of understatements. By the time the clock-arm had spun around to 12, the mercury was touching 40C with humidity close to 90 percent. The bands were beating a wearier rhythm and the carnival atmosphere was dulled as the pressure-cooker conditions affected everyone.

Not that it matters to the golden-goose killers. Who cares about a dehydrated and cramping player or three when there's money to be made by selling series rights? Who cares if the average fan in the stands slows down like a wind-up toy after not being allowed to bring in any water to drink? As long as the fat cats are happy with their finger food and air conditioning in the corporate hospitality boxes - next dodgy TV deal in the pipeline? - all's well with the world.

India's players perhaps need to have a word or two with Tim May and friends about forming a strong association that will put a stop to such nonsense. Players are not cattle - and few farmers would treat livestock with such contempt - to be herded across from one obscenely hot venue to another in a season when no one would step out of the shade unless they absolutely had to.

The enthusiasm and verve of this Kochi crowd has been a lesson to many established centers where spectators have come to take their cricket for granted while being boorishly partisan. But while such a magnificent turnout deserves due reward, it shouldn't come in the form of a match in sizzling summer heat. This is no time to play or watch cricket - even an April fool could tell you that.

Dileep Premachandran is assistant editor of Cricinfo.