On the Front Foot: Mumbai Test in doubt after death of spiritual leader

 

A pall hangs over the Second Test in Mumbai. The general feeling is that it will proceed as planned, but there can be no certainty.

It depends on the reaction after the death last night of the controversial politician Bal Thackeray. He had been on a life-support machine for several days and his family had said he was responding to treatment. Thousands of followers have been outside his house for most of the week, large parts of the city were virtually shut down for two days and are likely to be again, police are on high alert.

Thackeray was the founder and spiritual leader of Shiv Sena, a right-wing Hindu nationalist party, which since their formation have campaigned for the rights of the natives of Maharashtra, the state of which Mumbai is the capital. Over the years, Shiv Sena have often been accused of violence towards opponents, xenophobia and anti-Muslim sympathies.

Thackeray called for the formation of Hindu suicide squads and praised Adolf Hitler. He built a devoted following and there are huge fears of unrest throughout Mumbai as part of the outpouring of grief at his death.

The main hope that the Test will proceed is based on his love for cricket. In the days when he was still a humble newspaper cartoonist rather than a charismatic political leader, he would travel to work on the train with such Test players as Ramakant Desai and Bapu Nadkarni. His love of the game and empathy with cricketers (of whatever background) was formed then.

More recently, he and Shiv Sena, having been in power in Mumbai, were involved in the redevelopment of the Wankhede Stadium where the Test is due to be played. But the position is extremely volatile.

Now Thackeray is dead, the least that can be expected is maximum, top-level security.

Small is best for Tests

If Test cricket is to survive as a proper spectacle in India, it may have to start thinking small. Crowds in Ahmedabad for the First Test have not been as poor as was feared, but the "house full" notices remained undisturbed in whichever cellar they are stored.

The next three Tests are due to be played in Mumbai, Kolkata and Nagpur, two of them the biggest cities in India. But they are not expected to pull in the crowds.

Last year the new head of the Twenty20 Indian Premier League told this reporter that the way forward for Test matches was to stage them in smaller cities. "We are thinking that we should organise more Test matches in B towns, because in the populated metropolises people are always in a hurry, they're busier, they want Twenty20, they want the one-dayer," said Rajeev Shukla. "But in B grade cities in India where they hardly get any international cricket but still have large populations, if a Test match is organised people will want to watch it."

This was echoed by India's captain, MS Dhoni, last week. Commenting on attendances being linked to the state of the economy, he said: "We have seen in the smaller cities that we have got more crowds compared to the bigger cities."

Yet England are playing in Mumbai and Kolkata, while next March Australia appear in Delhi, Chennai, and Chandigarh, big cities all. Part of the problem may be that visiting teams are declining to go to B cities. But at least India appear to be keeping their promise to play more Test matches. They might try starting to promote them.

Swann turns it on

Graeme Swann became England's leading Test off-spin bowler in Ahmedabad when he overtook Jim Laker's 53-year record of 193 wickets. With 197 wickets in total at present, Swann is 60th on the overall Test list but fifth in the all-time list of off-break bowlers behind, in reverse order, Saqlain Mushtaq, Lance Gibbs, Harbhajan Singh and, of course, nominally, Muttiah Muralitharan.

This perhaps shows what an unfashionable skill off-spin has usually been through the years. Swann deserves real credit but the truth is England have always been better at left-arm spin (away from the right-hand bat, you see).

Derek Underwood, of that parish, with 297 wickets, is now in Swann's sights.

s.brenkley@independent.co.uk

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices