9th October, 2008, Bangalore: Playing for IISc cricket team has had its fringe benefits. We got a few club members' passes from Karataka State Cricket Association for attending the first test match between India and Australia being played at Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore from 9-13 October, 2008. It was the first day of the four-match series and it also was the first time in my life that I was going to attend an international match at a stadium. The ground looked much smaller than I had expected. We'd played at much bigger grounds at NIT-Rourkela and IISc! But yes, the outfield was impeccably green and even. How I wished we'd won one more match in the league so that we could have got an opportunity to play on the very ground where I was seeing these international players strutting their stuff. Anyway, there's always a next time.
There were a few practice pitches close to the H-stand for which we had the passes. So we went early to catch a glimpse of the practice sessions and routines that the players go through before the match. Sachin was having a few knocks with Robin Singh thowing balls at him while Sourav was having a go at Munaf and RP on the adjoining pitch. There was a roar from the crowd when Robin misdirected one of his throws to Sachin's chest and also whenever dada played one of his sweetly timed signature drives. This being the last series for dada, there were posters all around in his name. We were sitting right under one such giant banner that said "Dada never retires from our hearts". A couple of Aussies practicing on a pitch much closer to us almost went unnoticed. There was Shane Watson and later Michael Clarke having short batting stints.
As the time for the toss approached, Ravi Shastri walked up to the pitch camera men in tow. Ponting and then Kumble walked out to a loud applause from the small but boisterous crowd. The Aussie captain won the toss and elected to bat. There was an air of disappointment that came with the knowledge of having to wait for a day or two to see Sehwag's fireworks. But Zaheer got India going with the prized scalp of Hayden in the very first over. What followed was a long and grinding session of test cricket. We saw Ponting skip and jump to Ishant's tunes before growing in confidence and playing a couple of gorgeous drives that were well-applauded by the knowledgeable audience. Katich, at the other end, played cautiously while building a sound partnership with his skipper. Harbhajan and Kumble tried hard without getting any help from the pitch. Bhajji was particularly interactive with the crowd, waving at us every now and then. Most of the others were fully focussed on the game almost as if they were completely unaware of the noise around them. Well, that must take some concentration, I guess.
We left at the stroke of lunch, with hopes of witnessing a session or two of India's batting over the weekend. Australia went on to make 254/4 at stumps on day one. Ponting managed to notch up his first test century on Indian soil and in the process became the player with the most number of centuries as captain. Zaheer picked up a wicket each in the first and last overs of the day's play. Day two portends an intriguing tussle.