Cape Town brings with it many flavours. You have the majestic Table Mountain, the effervescent local culture, the street dance, the radiant graffiti encapsulating the countless shades of Africa, the enchanting waterfront, the expansive vineyards, the bistros, the tourists and, of course, sport.
In summer time, cricket is front page news in these parts. The South African team is followed with passion.
On the day I arrive in Cape Town, all roads leading to my hotel in the city centre are blocked. It’s the day of the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival.
The bustling long street is a blaze of colour. Young and old, men and women, in flowing costumes, dance their way past admirers cheering them on from both sides of the street. There are seating arrangements for the elderly.
Rhythm is the byword as the bands play music. The beating of the drums fills the air. Some wear masks, the children roar in delight.
Yours truly is stranded with bags and suitcase unable to cross the road leading to the hotel. But this proves a blessing; for one rarely gets such an opportunity to see real Africa from up close. This is a continent throbbing with life.
In the hotel, you are immediately given an advisory by the staff — conserve water.
These are also difficult times in Cape Town. This captivating city is facing a drought. Cape Town dreads ‘day zero’ when it runs out of all water. Borewells are being dug up in a hurry.
The residents have to pay additional tax if they consume more water. There are signboards all over the city reflecting the need to preserve this precious natural resource.
The pretty ground at Newlands with the sensational Table Mountain bears no signs of the water scarcity though. The outfield is lush green.
The ground staff are busy ahead of a high-octane Test series, between the No. 1 and 2 ranked Test nations in world cricket.
Much focus is on a greenish track as both India and South Africa practise. There is tension in the air ahead of a big series. And the expectations from the teams are high.
Newlands, the area hosting the Test, is a posh upmarket suburb with colonial buildings, boulevards and swanky malls. It’s a much safer part of Cape Town too.
Back at the city centre, the street shops are busy. The florist waits for her customers, and the man at the handicraft store is continually engaged.
Meanwhile, Virat Kohli and his wife Anushka, recently married, are seen in different parts of Cape Town and its surrounding areas. The celebrity couple are never far away from news.
We also get closer to the Test. The Indians, given optional training, do not show up for practise on Test match eve. It is said that they want to tune their mind mentally for the Test and recharge their batteries.
And captain Kohli does not turn up for the pre-Test press conference. Instead it is batting coach Sanjay Bangar who addresses the media. India, he says, is not short of belief.
Friday is the day of the Test and crowds flock to Newlands. And the stall selling cricket gear and souvenir inside the stadium has many clients.
People enjoy their cricket here — a Test at Newlands is as much a social occasion as a sporting one — and there is a joyful atmosphere inside the stadium.
But then, there is a bombshell from the Indian camp at the toss. Vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane, who has a fine Test record away from the sub-continent, is not a part of the XI. Rohit Sharma, it is argued, is the man in form.
And India throws in an X factor in the form of debutant paceman Jasprit Bumrah. It’s a gamble and time will tell.
There is much speculation over the inclusion of pace bowling great Dale Steyn too. Eventually, the South Africans pick the mercurial Steyn as the South Africans opt for four seamers.
The Test gets underway, Bhuvneshwar Kumar makes early inroads but AB de Villiers sizzles to change the course of the game. Then Steyn, Philander and Morkel step up the heat with the ball in the final session.
De Villiers and Steyn…class is forever.
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