Inspiration for the men’s team: The Indian women cricketers appear to have found a whole new band of dedicated fans and followers after their historic effort in saving the Test match against England at Bristol. Sadly unseen by most, they put up one of the greatest batting fightbacks by India ever. You’d think a draw sounds dull, but this was nail-biting heroism, or heroinism, right to the end. Following on, India were just 34 ahead with seven wickets down. But then the tail wagged and wagged and flagged up a draw: so many runs for the eighth and then a century partnership for the ninth between Sneh Rana, and Tanya Bhatia, both debutants. From 199 for seven, the Indian girls ended at 344 for 8. Many now hope the men will follow their example. They might need to.
Bharat Army in a quieter avatar: The legendary Bharat Army has been a lot quieter in Southampton at the beginning of The Ultimate Test than expected by others and the band of supporters itself. For a start it wasn’t there in strength – spacing between seats meant fewer could come in anyhow, and the wet weather conditions every now and then did not help. But India’s first innings was not quite what the colourful caps and the convincing bugles were there for, not to speak of the ‘dholak’ that has become standard ammunition for the Bharat Army. But the loyalty of the army stands undiminished, with the faith that all will turn out well eventually.
Room for more fans: The usual planeloads of fans who fly in from India and the US for an Indian cricket season in England have considerably dwindled the ranks of the Bharat Army. Which led to the odd result that of the two hotels at the Ageas Bowl, one still had rooms going (the other hotel was taken up by the teams). This would have been quite unthinkable in normal times, when hotels for miles around would be booked up. But it was still a fairly substantial and determined band that turned up. Indian skipper Kohli was quite right to say that Indian fans would be there, rain or sunshine; he added that that would be an advantage for the Indian team. That may yet happen. The rest of course would be for Kohli and crew to do.
A journey worth taking: Sandeep is a typically loyal soldier of the Bharat Army. He set an alarm for 5am in Glasgow on the first rain-drenched day, took the bus to the station, then a combination of two trains to travel down the length of the country to then find another bus from the station to the Ageas Bowl. For the remaining days he has travelled up and down from a friend’s place in London. For years now he has been right there to cheer every run India makes, and every wicket India takes. Because, he says, he can think of no other way to be or no other place to be when India are playing. The Sandeeps outside the field are doing all they can but there’s only that much they can do.
Drop in Delta numbers offers hope: Anything said about the virus risks getting said too soon. But there is some cautious optimism that the spread of Delta in Britain can be contained. From upwards of 11,000 fresh daily cases reported a couple of days back, the number dropped to 10,000 plus and on Sunday to 9,000 plus. This may well be due to the usual reporting lag on weekends. The reported number usually rises on Monday or Tuesday every week. But short of any dramatic jump, a plateauing at this level would suggest containment of the virus spread. Some scientists are suggesting a little optimistically, that the lockdown may be lifted before the due date, July 19.