BAGGY GREEN for the Aussies, maroon sunhat for the West Indies – cricketers wear their hats with pride, as badges of honour. However, sometimes, like on Tuesday at the frigid Feroz Shah Kotla, the reasons were more practical.
With the minimum temperature dropping to 5.6 degrees Celsius and the national capital officially becoming colder than Dehradun, Dharamshala and Nainital, the stadium witnessed a rare sight: Tamil Nadu cricketers wore monkey hats in the field, apart from several layers of clothing, for their third round Ranji Trophy match against hosts Delhi.
From the moment the visiting team landed in the capital, the focus was not just on the opposition. They arrived here in view of the cold and were well equipped to cope, especially considering that winter temperatures in Chennai do not dip below the mid-twenties even at night.
The two practice sessions they had before the game at the Feroz Shah Kotla started around 12:00 PM. However, the 9.30am start on Day 1 in the Kotla proved a bit too much for some players, especially sailor L Vignesh, who bowled with his monkey hat on.
“I have experienced cold weather before, but today it was completely different because there was a chilly breeze. I’ve played at Dharamsala before, but it was manageable. But here it was just too much to handle. (By wearing a monkey hat) I knew I would give substance to meme makers, and even some guys (teammates) pulled my leg. But I was like, I need this because I couldn’t handle it,” Vignesh told The Indian Express.
On Tuesday, the effect of winter in Delhi was clearly visible in the stadium. Dense fog obscured the sun and the game was halted for 5-7 minutes after only one bowled over. Delhi openers Anuj Rawat and Dhruv Shorey spoke to the umpires after the first over and the judges took them off the field.
However, the circumstances did not affect 33-year-old Vignesh as he was responsible for the wickets of Rawat and Yash Dhull in his first spell to rock Delhi early. While Washington Sundar was the other TN player to wear a monkey cap, the rest resorted to hand warmers.
“You had to be warm to bowl normally and when I got on the pitch I didn’t even feel my fingers and this despite wearing a skinner, thermals, a T-shirt, the jumper and the jumper. And on the other side we had Sandy (Sandeep Warrier) just bowling with his jersey on,” Vignesh said.
“Although I got two wickets, I didn’t even feel the ball in my hand. For example, I had to use my shoulder more than usual and had to make a few adjustments, especially in regards to how I load up to the crease. If I hadn’t used my shoulder enough, I probably would have bowled more half-volleys,” he said.
Even in-form Delhi opener Shorey, who scored a patient half-century (66), said conditions were challenging for the batsmen. “The conditions were good for bowlers. It was a bit tight in the morning but as the day progressed it got better,” said Shorey, who along with Jonty Sidhu (57) made 105 runs for the third wicket.
It was a good throw for Tamil Nadu skipper Baba Indrajith to win as he brought Delhi to bat. In the morning the ball was still working a bit and Vignesh – who swings the ball both ways – made the most of it.
Just before the tea break, Vignesh, wearing his woolen hat, picked up Shorey’s prized wicket, which was undone by a good outswinger. The mercury dropped further in the final session and poor light forced the umpires to announce the end of the day’s play as Delhi teetered at 212 for six on stumps.
Tamil Nadu, wearing their monkey hats, had weathered the winter in Delhi.