Many of the pages of much publicised, eagerly awaited chapters of history – episodes that were slated to go hot and smoking to the press, nuggets of anecdotes sizzling and seasoned on the sun baked first day pitch – are often rendered soggy by rain, ripped off the book of cricket.
With the showers drenching the ground to make it largely unsuitable, many a delightful turn of events may have been washed away halfway into the twirl. Drops of pouring rain that painted the grass into a lusher green may have rinsed and cleansed deeds of heroism that might have been.
Who knows if that was the morning on which Sachin Tendulkar rose with a spirit that told him that the famed willow would flash the brightest in all its glittering career? Who knows if Dale Steyn looked at his fingers knowing that the red cherry would zip and zoom across the twenty two yards in the most lethal streaks? Who knows if Ricky Ponting felt the familiar throbbing in his veins which used to announce to him in his heydays that this was the day when runs would come by – strewn across the roads as he made his journey through the day, fifties and hundreds piled near his feet asking to be merged into his handsome collection?
We will never know what might have transpired from the lost day’s play. These were the days when the elements, according to Cardus the presiding geniuses of the game, held court. The players, umpires, scorers, commentators and spectators waited – built up by a steady diet of incessant previews, millions of eyes trained on the skies, willing the clouds to clear, beseeching the sun to arise from slumber, forlorn fingers clicking F5, waiting for the websites to announce the arrival of the umpires on the wicket.
It is one of the eternal charms of Test Cricket that, like reality, it is sometimes compromised by the conditions. Sure, it is frustrating, but so is life. Few other sports would accommodate interruptions of opened up skies with a curtailed, but unchanged schedule. That the run of play can change, become brisker, stagnate and sometimes stop altogether because of the rise and fall of the readings in the barometer is a defining feature of the king of all games.
The great annals of cricket have not been poorer for the days when the sun refused to rule.
Accounts, anecdotes and articles have been scripted by pens dipped in the inky skies as much as they have been inspired by the mastery of the cricketers when washed by sunshine. The interruptions due to weather –that final unconquered frontier that still stands in the way of relentless non-stop entertainment that sporting economics would rather make of the arenas –are perhaps the only times during ceaseless action when one is shaken into inactive reflection.
Some wonderful reminiscences may do rounds over tumblers of amber at the tavern. Some of the best writing about the game has been produced while – as per the title of a gem of a book by R.C. Robertson-Glasgow – Rain Stopped Play.
There are other silver linings to the adamant clouds that refuse to go away. No, I do not mean the cubicle dweller who will become more productive without the cricket website keeping him busy all day. Keith Miller and Denis Compton may have used the interruptions to sneak off for the public houses, but that is no longer on the cards in these days of discipline and vigilant eyeballs. This can very well be the opportunity to unwind for the players, even to think about and thus iron out some of the creases that may have crept into their technique from constant use.
And finally, a word about the real heroes of the occasion. The die-hard young man who braved and the vagaries of temperamental clime, wagered against the elements to catch a few hours of his idols in the middle. When every voice of reason and weather wisdom had implored him to stay away from the ground. With nothing but the empty wicket in front of him, the vast greens around the pitch barren and deserted, it is not entirely impossible that imagination will play tricks. Might he not, in some desperate bid to pass his time away from the diversions offered on similar occasions by television channels, ride the wings of fancy and place himself at the middle of the popping crease, in some not too distant future, heroically overcoming the challenges posed by the visiting bowlers – or running down and hurling unplayable deliveries at the opposition batsmen.
Is it not possible for these day dreams on a rainy day to stick on beyond just the day to become dreams and eventually a reality? Can the rain, while washing away some of the most eloquent lines in the much awaited act between leading players of the current drama of cricket, nurture and harvest the future saplings of the great game?