Soaring temperatures and water scarcity have hit Cape Town hard, and both factors could have an effect on the crucial third ODI between India and South Africa on Wednesday. Indeed, severe drought has affected all aspects of life in the South African city and cricket is not out of its ambit.
The Newlands outfield, which is lush green ordinarily, looked rough, yellowish and abrasive, according to a report The Hindustan Times, which adds that there were brown, grass-less patches on the outfield and relatively thin grass cover on the whole. Even the grass banks have not been spared. Newlands well and truly seems ravaged by the punishing weather conditions.
India played the first Test of the ongoing tour at the same venue and the concern at that time was that the extremely dry conditions would break the pitch up faster than usual causing it to not last the full duration of five days. But 'dryness' was not as big a factor as feared, though the match ended within four days and wasn't exactly a high-scoring affair. For the record, India lost that match by 72 runs.
Since the first Test of the series in early January, the water crisis in Cape Town has worsened and water consumption has been curtailed from 87 litres for a person per day to 50 litres per person per day.
“At this time of the year, we would be watering it four or five times a week. Prior to the Test, we could water the outfield twice. But now we can water it only once. The pitch, however, has been watered as per the requirements,” the report quoted Newlands curator Evan Flint as saying.
Flint noted that there were rough patches on the outfield, which will make it fast. A fast outfield essentially would mean that the batsmen will have good value for their shots. He, however, shared a piece of information which will be music to the ears of the Indian pacers. “It (the outfield) could also support some reverse swing, bringing Indian pacers into the fray.”
Indeed, one expects the dry outfield to result in scuffing the ball up, which would then aid reverse swing. Given that there are quite a few able practitioners of the art in the Indian line-up, the South African batsmen have a number of things to worry about.
The unrelenting sun has baked the pitch, unlike in the first Test, when rains had somewhat moderated the effect of the drought. Flint, however, assured that the groundsmen have been able to water the pitch, which should hold for the entire duration of the match on Wednesday.
All school and club cricket was stopped at the venue this week and the authorities have been trying to stop the use of municipal water for activities like showers, with an eye on the Test against Australia that South Africa are slated to play in late March.
India lead the ODI series 2-0 and a win in Cape Town will assure they won't lose the series. Reverse swing at Newlands will be the perfect prop that Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Co may need.