UNDER THE misty, illuminated skies of historic Green Park Stadium, a draw, where sweat and emotion flowed equally, was played out between India and New Zealand. The gambling fortunes have fluctuated, as the day swings between smog and sunshine. The tourists needed 284 points to win the test, which was a lost pursuit even before New Zealand’s fourth round started, but they fought hard and stoically to deprive India of a single window during the series opening test.
At the heart of the rearguard were a versatile rookie and left-arm spinner of Indian descent, Rachin Ravindra (18 of 91 balls) and Ajaz Patel (2 of 23), who blunted 52 balls to deny the India.
A start to remember! Rachin Ravindra 18 * (91 balls) and @AjazP 2 * (23 balls) beat the last session in Kanpur to get a DRAW and valuable WTC points for the Green Park team. Dashboard | | https://t.co/yGSlW6a2d5 #INDvNZ pic.twitter.com/JJEkkWkUvK
– BLACK CAPS (@ BLACK CAPS) November 29, 2021
Rachin’s father was a software systems architect from Bengaluru who emigrated to Wellington at the turn of the century, but continued his love for cricket. He quickly began to organize cricket for schoolchildren and started the Hutts Hawks Club, which organized cricket tours to various game outposts around the world. Naturally, Rachin, his name a coat rack of his father’s favorite cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, lent himself to the game.
Ajaz was born in Mumbai and moved to Auckland when he was eight with his father Yunus, who was then a refrigerator mechanic. He wasn’t much of a cricketer nerd, but at his aunt’s insistence he was signed up to a local club from where former New Zealand spinner Dipak Patel spotted him.
Fate brought Rachin and Ajaz together, and they seized the moment. It’s unclear how their careers would evolve from here, but they’ve built up lifelong memories over those 52 balls, with each ball being an event in itself.
There was more drama and emotion in the last ten minutes than during the entire game – calls, criticisms, discussions, referees flipping the meter, deafening chants in the stands, chirping of vaults, short edges, throwing laps , and the ball rarely going up to the thigh. From hope to discouragement, from despair to agony, the stadium was shrouded in a miasma of emotion. In the mix of all, New Zealand’s latest pair of wickets remained unfazed.
On the sixth ball of the 96th, Ravi Ashwin hit Ajaz on his pads, and the Indian cricketers and stands went crazy. The referee remained impassive. Skipper Ajinkya Rahane reviewed. The crowd was holding its breath, their eyes focused on the Mills End’s two television screens. The reruns showed no bats, much to their delight, but Hawkeye did show that the ball fell just outside the leg stump. Ajaz sighed in relief, Rachin wrapped his arms around him. A bond for life could have been born here.
Rahane bit his lip, Ashwin frowned. Half an inch in the stumps, he would have walked away in celebration. Ravindra Jadeja, however, exuded serenity. New Zealand had just two overs left to seal a memorable draw and India to claim a famous victory. But then the referees took out the luxmeter. It was 4:15 am, but the stadium was dark. A wave of anxiety swept across the floor, before it burst into joy when the referees concluded the light was good for play to continue.
– ICC (@ICC) November 29, 2021
It was the third time in as many overs that the referees had controlled the light. Soon the crowd started chanting the names of the referees, Nitin Menon and Virender Sharma, perhaps a first experience for them.
Then they chanted the name of Axar Patel, the hero of the first round with the ball, arriving from River End. The stadium was overflowing with impatience, but Rachin pushed back whatever was thrown at him. The third bullet whirled viciously towards him and grazed the inside edge. The crowd jumped for joy but the edge escaped the ravine. At this point, each Indian outfielder was around the batsman like an umbrella, increasing the pressure with every fraction of a second. Absolute silence filled the floor, as Rachin defended the final three balls to safety. And then, between the overs, they gave him a standing ovation for the heart and skill he had shown.
– BCCI (@BCCI) November 29, 2021
But there was still one left, and Jadeja calmly tossed the ball into the air, as he had the fate of the match in hand. He was the force that took the game this far with four wickets, including those of Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, to bring to life a game that snaked into a draw. But Ajaz did not graze the nerves, emphatically defending each of the six balls. The second ball spun around and stayed low, but Ajaz had his eyes just below the ball and his body just behind.
At the end of the over, the 98th of the New Zealand round, with 10 more minutes to go, the referees checked the light again and informed the players that it was a shame the game continued. . Eyes tired, the Indian players lingered, begging to gaze up at the sky, in case the sun winked again. It wasn’t, and they dragged themselves sadly into the locker room. By this time, Rachin and Ajaz were already bathed in the sweat of their toil.
The match was once again a vindication of New Zealand’s courage, their talent for fighting to the end and their heart for a fight. It’s not for nothing that they are world champions, and no team has come up against India so close at home lately. And how ironic it was that two Kiwis of Indian origin were at the heart of a fifth day epic.