First step out of the centrally air-conditioned airport in Ahmedabad, and it did feel very hot. As if the sun is sucking the energy away with a straw pierced through the head.
Scale-wise, very little separates Delhi (from where I boarded the flight), Indore (from where I was last) and Ahmedabad (where I am now) but Ahmedabad did hit differently!
Before the heat-welcome, a giant poster of the Gujarat Titans stares down at you at the arrivals lounge.
“Welcome to the home of Gujarat Titans,” it reads and has sharp pictures of Shubman Gill, Hardik Pandya, Rashid Khan and Rahul Tewatia. While three don’t hold much relevance as far as Border Gavaskar Trophy is concerned but the first name, and the first face on the giant billboard, will have a lot of attention his way when he walks out to bat with the Indian captain Rohit Sharma.
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Rohit is the other Indian cricketer who smiles down at you with a perfectly placed vertical board of a cement manufacturer. They have clearly aced the advertising game ahead of the fourth Test of the Border Gavaskar Trophy between India and Australia.
As one navigates from the airport to the main city, crossing the Gandhi Ashram on the left, more boards, one right in the middle of a four-way, of Gujrat Titans extending greetings.
While Gill will be egged seeing his face around the city, there will be no dearth of motivation for the Indian camp too when they cross the cantonment area. Gates with one-liners “Jeet nischay (win certain)”, “Sahas aur sammaan (courage and respect)” are found in plenty before hitting the main city area.
Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill are first few faces you’d spot at Ahmedabad airport. There are Hardik, Rashid and Tewatia too… #AaveDe #INDvAUS @cricketnext pic.twitter.com/HJqejCIpXG— Sahil Malhotra (@Sahil_Malhotra1) March 6, 2023
Courage is what India need to show in this very crucial fixture of the series and respect is what they would look to regain of the home spectators. The surrender in Indore has left the fans disappointed and the three-day finishes have not pleased the cricket lovers one bit.
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“For how many days are you in Ahmedabad sir,” my cab driver politely asked. “Depends on the match sir. Maybe 5-6 days at least,” I respond.
“(Laughs) kaunsa match 2-3 din se upar jaa raha hai sir, ye bhi nahi jaaega. Jitni jaldi ye match khatam kar dete hai use zyaada time to Ahmedabad ghumne mai nikaal sakte hai aaram se (Which match is lasting beyond 2-3 days? Even this won’t. Four days are enough to roam and explore Ahmedabad but sad match won’t last that long),” he takes a not-so-subtle dig at the quick finishes of the Tests.
Still early days but the buzz from the city was missing. From the airport staff to the cab driver to the hotel staff to the people I met randomly on the road, most were unaware about the cricket match and it being a Test didn’t excite many.
I reminded them that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in attendance too, but the response remained flat, a word we’ll probably never use to describe the nature of the strip for the fourth Test.
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For locals, seeing the PM is not that much of an exciting affair. For them, it’s business as usual as the PM keeps dropping by once in every two-three months.
“For you it will be exciting to see PM Modi ji but he keeps coming here regularly. So we see the presence very often,” adds the driver.
T20 hota toh…
Staple response no matter which part of the country you are in. The shortest format is given preference over the Tests and the masses still see the Tests reserved for a special set of audience.
“Had it been a T20, there would have been so much traffic on the road during match. But since it is a Test match, it will be normal. Not everyone wants to watch Test match. That too when they are ending well under three days these days,” says a gentleman waiting for his cab at the designated zone near the arrivals hall.
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Both India and Australia will reach Ahmedabad today and the two teams will commence practice tomorrow onwards.
While the visitors have a morning session, the hosts will practice in the afternoon. The weather forecast says 50% chance of rain today, 30% tomorrow and 30% the day after.
It is hot and a little spell of rain could well make it more humid. Saturday onwards, the average temperature is set to see an increase too but it remains to be seen whether the game lasts that much.
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