Kolkata: Team India lost their chance to salvage pride while South Africa, clearly ahead on current form, may well feel they were denied a sweep as the final match of the T20 series was washed away at the Eden Gardens on Thursday.
Having thus clinched the series 2-0, the Proteas head into the five-match ODI, which begins in Kanpur on Sunday, with the confidence of having drawn first blood. The Indians, having delivered some uninspiring cricket, will have to quickly put the disappointments behing and regroup.
A heavy afternoon downpour is all that it took to leave the outfield so soggy in patches that hours of effort by the groundsmen, complete with three 'super-soppers', failed to resurrect to acceptable limits. On-field and reserve umpires Vineet Kulkarni, Anil Chaudhary and C. Shamsuddin made three inspections, the final one at 9.30 pm, before giving up.
With the series already lost and won, no one looked too keen to get a game going. While the groundsmen went through the motions, the players were off the boil as well. The Indians came out for the 'warm up' with the football, the visitors decided it was best to stay in the dressing room -- probably already looking ahead to the rest of the tour.
This was to be the series when Dhoni & Co. made a strong statement in the run-up to the World T20, to be held in the country in March-April next year. Instead, their preparations have been thrown into disarray.
Amidst the setback of the series defeat, Dhoni & Co. may well want to see the positives, not more potentially telling than the resurrection of spin as their main weapon. With the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh set to operate for longer spells, and the Proteas revealing a hint of vulnerability to spin, the hosts have a good chance to regain control. Ashwin's dominance of the dangerous AB de Villiers is a huge confidence-booster, and it will be interesting to find out if the classy South African finds an answer to the riddle. Like 'AB', the Indian batsmen, unable to quite cope with the intense run-rate pressure of T20, too will find more breathing space.
Some 25,000 die-hards who turned up amidst the uncertainty, stayed put till the final announcement. They left, probably wondering how could an hours rain in the afternoon bring such an outcome.
Surprisingly, the outfield was left uncovered when the threat of rain was real in the morning.
The abandonment of the game after just a passing evening shower again showed the poor drainage system of the iconic Eden Gardens.
The failure to start the match even after seven hours also potrayed Cricket Association of Bengal in a very poor light as the match could not be started despite using three super soppers. Veteran curator Prabir Mukherjee's role has also come under scanner as the outfield was not covered despite the forecasts of a passing shower and knowledge of the stadium's dubious record in times of rain interruptions.
For the record, the Alipore Met office recorded 14.22 mm of rainfall between 1pm and 2.30pm and the CAB authorities had more than five hours time to get the ground ready.
It was also an ominous start to the new CAB management under president-designate Sourav Ganguly after the demise of Jagmohan Dalmiya September 20 as their efficiency would be up for a serious scrutiny with the hallowed venue slated to host the final of the World Twenty20 next year.
Surprising as it may sound but only the match strip and the two practice pitches on both the sides of the dressing room were covered during the spell of rain despite the fact that the Eden has the option to fully cover the ground. Minutes after the rain subsided in the afternoon, the former India captain and now CAB supremo Ganguly was seen taking a stock of the situation of the ground with his denims rolled up.
But the harsh ground reality remained that the Eden was staring at another washout, despite no or little rain as BCCI promptly wrote in their Twitter feed: "Despite the lack of rain of late, the umpires aren't happy."
(With Agency inputs)