India’s decision has prompted speculation about the pitch in Indore being more suitable for spinners than Dharamsala.
As a foreigner visiting India, you can be confounded by an unfamiliar approach to time.
A bus hasn’t arrived, a wifi network is down, you’re waiting on a piece of equipment, and you want to know how long. One genre of answer involves a cosmically flexible five minutes.
Another invokes a vague future marker: after lunch, night time, ask again tomorrow.
Far from rigid western ideas of timekeeping, something to it is more philosophy than organisation: so much of human perseverance is based on the thought that in the morning, things might be better.
The shrug of the shoulders approach applies at the top of cricket administration as much as it does at street level. Last minute is business as usual.
When England hosted the 2019 World Cup, the fixture came out 13 months ahead of time. Australia’s version last year gave nearly 11 months’ notice.
India’s T20 World Cup in 2021 didn’t have a fixture until two months out. That one had to contend with the pandemic and a move to the UAE, but their 2016 edition didn’t, and it was even later in announcing its dates. India events drive the planning department at the ICC to distraction.
So it is little surprise to have a mid-series venue change announced for the ongoing Australian Test tour, trading the Himalayan landscapes of Dharamsala for the city of Indore on the volcanic uplands of the Malwa Plateau.
With those mountain peaks in the background, Dharamsala is only rivalled by Cape Town as the most visually dramatic Test ground in the world.
In Australia, conspiracy theories about the move are already circulating. The same teams played at Dharamsala in 2017 on a pitch with more for pace bowlers than the usual Indian track, so the story goes that India have shifted to another spinning track.
It’s true that local authorities have been playing funny buggers with the Nagpur pitch and Australia’s access to it, but moving a match makes little sense. In that previous Dharamsala match India’s spinners took 12 wickets out of 20 and won in a canter.
Ravichandran Ashwin may average 12.50 with the ball in two matches at Indore, but he averages no more than low 20s at all but a couple of the 16 Indian grounds where he has played Test cricket.
More relevantly, Dharamsala is a difficult place to organise cricket. High-altitude weather and access are the factors.
This year the blame is on cold temperatures and fog stopping the grass from growing. That World Cup in 2016 also had a Dharamsala match yanked away to Kolkata at even closer to the last minute.
A town with one tiny airport and a couple of daily flights, mainly accessible by nine hours of stomach-twisting bus rides on mountain roads, was not equipped to handle the influx that an India-Pakistan match would bring.
So the move won’t much affect the teams, who will be packed up and make their transfers with little changing in their world of polite directions and pastel waiting rooms.
It is more relevant for the complicated retinue that follows each match, right now furiously cancelling and rebooking.
Most affected are spectators: it will be a sore disappointment and a financial loss for those from distant places who identified Dharamsala as the most interesting venue to attend and made their plans accordingly.
The Indian board doesn’t mind late changes: in this country the availability and cost of labour means that anything can be pulled together at the last minute, and the wealthy do not need to give anyone else’s convenience their consideration.
At street level that means finding a patch of shade and a middle-distance stare, resigned to the indeterminate wait before finding out what will happen next. — theguardian