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For Bengaluru, the return of Test cricket was well worth the wait

Last updated on 12 Mar 2022 | 07:24 PM
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For Bengaluru, the return of Test cricket was well worth the wait

Day 1 of the second Test provided the spectators with a high that is cathartic

For a very long time, cricket fans in Bengaluru have had it rough. 

Prior to Saturday, the last Test the city hosted was four years ago against Afghanistan, a clash in which their golden boy Virat Kohli did not feature. 

Thanks to the pandemic, the M Chinnaswamy stadium didn't witness any IPL or International action for more than two years, and the turn of events meant that the people of Karnataka were cruelly denied the opportunity to bid goodbye to a human they see as one of their own, AB de Villiers. 

And just when they thought that the city of Bengaluru would be rightly and deservedly overseeing the special occasion that is Kohli’s 100th Test, a last-minute scheduling rejig from the BCCI shattered their hearts into a million pieces. 

Disappointment after disappointment. Heartbreak after heartbreak. A complete starvation of any top-tier cricket for two years to go along with denial of closure and special moments. 

It is only fair, then, that the people of Karnataka, on Saturday, were treated to the absolute spectacle that was Day 1 of the second Test between India and Sri Lanka. Cricket came back to Bengaluru after 784 long days, and boy the sport delivered! 

89 overs. 338 runs. 16 wickets — a day packed with action from start to finish. Test cricket on cocaine, providing the spectators with a high that is cathartic. 

Understandably and unsurprisingly, most of the chatter online has been about the nature of the wicket. Though the outrage hasn’t been anywhere close to what it was in the aftermath of the Ahmedabad Test, there are fair chunks of people loathing the pitch, calling it a ‘disgrace’ due to the non-existent contest between bat and ball. Some have gone to the extent of suggesting that wickets like these kill Test cricket, drawing parallels with the dead pitch that Rawalpindi dished out last week. 

It is only when you’re sat in the stadium you realize that all this chatter about ‘fairness’ and the ‘balance between bat and ball’ is irrelevant the moment you’re a live spectator. 

It didn’t matter to the audience that 16 wickets fell on a single day. It didn’t matter that the ball was turning square pretty early. It didn’t matter that the bounce was inconsistent. It didn’t matter that certain individuals perished playing questionable shots. 

All that mattered was the show that was being put up by the 22 individuals on the field. All that mattered was having a good time. And if you’re someone who was looking to have a good time on Saturday, there was no better place to be than the Chinnaswamy. 

To not talk about the cricket that was played on the day would be criminal. 

On what was a minefield, Shreyas Iyer played one of the great counter-attacking innings in recent times, unleashing his Ranji avatar. Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami both bowled spells worthy of being hailed one of the best in their respective careers, while there were noteworthy showings from Vihari, Pant and Mathews, all of whom looked invincible at some point in their innings. 

But it would be an even bigger injustice to not address the atmosphere. For 7 hours and 15 minutes, the Chinnaswamy was rocking, making the occasion feel truly special though it was far from it. It is cricket’s loss that this stadium had been starved of any action for such a long period of time. 

Certainly, one individual who would agree with the statement above is Kohli. On paper Mohali might have been Kohli’s 100th Test match, but the true celebration of Virat Kohli the cricketer only happened in Bengaluru on Saturday. 

Right from an hour before the start of play - when Kohli was taking laps around the ground - all the way to stumps, the crowd did not stop showing love to ‘their’ skipper. A ‘Kohli, Kohli’ chant broke out every 5 minutes when India were bowling, and upon arriving to the crease the former skipper received, in wrestling terms, a ‘monstrous pop’. Kohli in Bengaluru felt like CM Punk in Chicago. 

But make no mistake, the connection was a two-way affair. At no moment was Kohli static while standing in the slip cordon - he interacted with the crowd through gestures, most of the time being unapologetically goofy, and constantly revved them up. At one point he requested them to chant Shami’s name instead of his, and mimicked a 360° stroke when RCB loyalists in the crowd chanted “ABD, ABD” from the bottom of their hearts. The interactions were so wholesome that it was easy to lose track of what was going on in the actual game. 

There might not be too many overs left in this Test match, by the looks of things. And when a Test match will be scheduled next at the Chinnaswamy is anybody’s guess.

But on Saturday, after being denied for so long, the people of Bengaluru got their moment. It was well worth the wait. 

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