IND vs AUS: Rains might force Vizag ODI into a T20 game

The weather gods haven’t been kind on YS Rajashekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Cricket Stadium ground-staff. Having done all the work over the past fortnight or so to carefully lay out a batting beauty, taking all the care they could to even keep the pitch covered to prevent it from being baked under the unforgiving heat, Saturday was a day in contrast. The harsh summer sun gave way for a heavy downpour as the ground-staff scrambled for covers. Within a matter of minutes, most of the ground was covered, but with 80 per cent rain predicted for Sunday, the chances of an uninterrupted, full 50-over contest remains unlikely.

Heat one moment, rain the next moment. In a way it sums up Visakhapatnam, one of the cleanest coastal cities, and one which frequently battles cyclones that come out the Bay of Bengal. This time there is no cyclone, however a low depression and a cyclonic circulation formed near Bangladesh has done enough to bring unscheduled rains.

Even though it has been raining for the last couple of days in the city, giving relief from the scorching heat, it is the last thing the 28,000 fans who have bought tickets would have wanted. According to Andhra Cricket Association (ACA) officials, online tickets were sold within half an hour and even for over-the-counter tickets, there was an unprecedented queue as the city is hosting an ODI after three-and-a-half years.

“We have done our part, it is over to the weather gods now,” ACA vice-president Rohit Reddy told The Indian Express. “We are expecting rain only in the evening. And the forecast is clear after 5 pm, so even if a 50-over match is not possible, we are expecting at least a 20-over contest because we can get the outfield ready in no time,” he said.

With a capacity of around 28,000, the stadium, opened to the arrival of MS Dhoni in 2005 when he scored 148 against Pakistan, is one of those venues that usually witness a good turnout like Indore. And there is a reason why fans have even shelled out Rs 2,000 more than the actual price of the ticket to get it in the black market.

Sans any Indian Premier League matches, there are still plenty of takers for ODIs. While the format may not be receiving good turnouts in metro cities and Tier 1 cities, in Tier II cities like Vizag, the format still remains a crowd puller. Starting from the cab driver to food delivery executives, the match is something they are looking forward to.

“Hosting an IPL match in Vizag is not possible unless Sunrisers Hyderabad want to play here. And moving the base is not an easy thing to do as well because teams plan their strategies around their home conditions. So for the public, any India international – irrespective of the format – is a chance to see the cricketers close to the action. Which is why we are not surprised by the interest in the game,” Reddy said.

Like other Tier II cities and state associations, Vizag has also approached the BCCI to allot at least one 50-over World Cup fixture to the city.

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