An air of uncertainty had hung over the T20I series opener between India and Sri Lanka in Guwahati right from the build-up to the match. This was supposed to be India v Zimbabwe in the first place, but with the ICC suspending Zimbabwe, the BCCI summoned its old friend Sri Lanka Cricket to jump in. Zimbabwe's suspension was later lifted, but India v Sri Lanka had been locked in already.
In the days leading up to the game, there had been political turmoil in Guwahati following the parliamentary approval to India's Citizenship Amendment Bill - the final day's play between Assam and Services in the Ranji Trophy was called off in December because of a state-wide curfew.
Some normalcy was restored in the next few weeks, but then it was wet weather's turn to cast doubts over the Guwahati T20I. It had rained by the time most of India's players landed in the city on Friday and the rain returned on the morning of the game. It cleared briefly in the evening to tease a capacity crowd, but rain and a damp pitch eventually forced an abandonment.
The showers lasted less than an hour and the groundstaff steadfastly covered the pitch - and the bowlers' run-ups - but they still allowed water to seep into the 22 yards, something that was described as a "schoolboy error" by Aakash Chopra on Star Sports.
The groundstaff then resorted to various measures, ranging from using super-soppers to steam irons, in order to dry the wet patches near the middle of the pitch, but to no avail. After seeing repeated inspections and braving the wet weather for three hours or thereabouts, a sell-out crowd, that was desperate to catch a rare glimpse of international action, returned home disappointed.
This was shaping up to be a big day for the Barsapara stadium. Giant posters of Virat Kohli and Lasith Malinga were splashed all around Guwahati and all tickets were reportedly sold out. Before Sunday, this venue had hosted just two internationals - the latest being an ODI against West Indies in October 2018.
The first T20I against Sri Lanka was set to be Barsapara stadium's dress rehearsal for IPL 2020 too. The venue was in the fray to be Rajasthan Royals' second home in the competition, and some of the Royals' officials were apparently in attendance on Sunday, but the abandonment might have thrown a spanner in the Assam Cricket Association's works.
They had beefed up security following political unrest in the approach to the game, but political slogans and chants could still be heard from the stands.
As for the groundstaff, it was a rather tragicomic evening. The super-sopper operator lost control and wound up splashing water on the LED ad boards and then on a member of the groundstaff. The loudest cheers on the evening was reserved for this blooper - and not for Kohli for a change. The groundstaff then brought in hairdryers and vacuum dryers to get a sodden pitch into a surface fit for a game of cricket. However, it was not to be and it was called off shortly before 10pm.
It wasn't all gloom and doom for the Guwahati crowd, though. On a rainy day with very little hope of cricket, the stands were full until the match officials made the final announcement. By the time the DJ played Tip tip barsa paani, the drizzle became a full-blown downpour, but the crowd lapped it up and grooved to the tune. Harbhajan Singh, who is working on this series as a TV commentator, couldn't resist the buzz and showed off his bhangra skills near the edge of the boundary.
At 8.40pm, the entire crowd sang Ma tujhe salam, flashing the torchlights on their mobile phones. An inspection then was scheduled for 9pm, but it got delayed to 9.30pm. The cut-off time for a five-over shoot-out was 9.46pm, and the crowd now swapped song and dance for nervous excitement.
Kohli and Rishabh Pant, with his pads on, headed out to inspect the pitch, with fireworks going off in the background. But they weren't pleased with the conditions, the same as the umpires. It had stopped raining by 8.20pm, but some "negligence" on the part of the groundstaff, as Chopra put it, meant a much-anticipated game ended in a damp squib.
The exodus soon began, and it resulted in a traffic jam, with vehicles madly honking at each other and the cops struggling to manage them. The build-up to this game was chaotic and the end wasn't any different either.