At Bullring, silence before the charge: Little hype in Jo'burg leading up to start of India's tour

CricketEdwards Nets, a ground staff at Wanderers in Johannesburg, prepares the infield for the first ODI between India and South Africa on Thursday. India will play three ODIs and Test matches on their month-long tour of South Africa. Express Photo

The Bullring seems rather sedate on Sunday. The colossal stands with multiple tiers that rest intimidatingly over each other give the Wanderers its distinctive moniker. The cauldron setting is known to have overawed many a first-time visitor. But today, the Wanderers itself looks to be in siesta mood, and far from intimidating.

The stubborn summer sun that lords over the oval patch of green located along Corlette Drive shimmers off the empty glass panes of the corporate boxes. And so too off the advertising hoardings that carry names, which have been representative of South African cricket for close to two decades. But admittedly you do feel like a drop in the ocean as you gaze at the vast emptiness around you, at the white, blue and green seats and the sloping grass-banks.

Edward Nets, though, hardly seems to care as he goes about his business unbeknownst near the centre square. He rides his mower up and down the practice wicket, getting off his perch intermittingly, to collect the trimmed grass and deposit it on the sidelines. Sunday is an off-day for most of the Wanderers ground-staff, including their captain Chris Scott. But not for the veteran of 40 years who's manned the pitches and the outfield here since 1974.

The match wicket lays unguarded. It's mantis green in colour. As you edge closer to it, Nets lets out a throaty snigger. You turn around to see him sporting a wicked smile his gums showing more than what's left of a crooked set of teeth.

"The ball will rrrrise till herrrre," he exclaims, with finger pointing at his head. "How will you guys do without your Tendulkarrrr?" before letting out a shrill whistle to catch the attention of one of his two colleagues working the off-day.

Nets holds his breath on whether the mantis green shall undergo a change of shade in four days' time when Mahendra Singh Dhoni & Co commence their shortened South African sojourn here in the ODI series opener. Or when they return here later in December for the first of two Tests, a battle royale pitting the best two sides in the world though the two boards might have impeded on the intensity.

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