For what was one of the most terrible years, nothing could bring back what is already lost. Yet when Boxing Day test match knocks on the door, one would always welcome it with a Christmas smile. India plays Australia on Saturday at Melbourne Cricket Ground in the second test match of the series and their last match of the year. Australians are one win ahead in the series after beating India in the first match. The latter would be something Indians would want to forget after their batting collapsed to 39 for nine wickets in the second innings. The pink ball day-night test match ended and the traditional red-cherry is back. The Boxing Day test match carries with it a tradition that is seventy years old.
Boxing Day is a holiday celebrated after Christmas. This tradition, which has British origins, is celebrated across many Commonwealth nations. Although the etymology of the word is debated, the “box” in the word is assumed to be referring to a box, which is used to collect alms or gifts during Christmas. It could also be a gift-box given to workers and servants. Even when the origins are rooted in a philosophy of charity, the event has turned to a commercial spectacle.
In countries like Australia, the day is a shopping holiday as well, with sellers offering products on great discounts and offers. “Cricket is first and foremost a dramatic spectacle,” says CLR. James — one of the greatest cricket writers of all time. A sport is a significant part of the cultural dynamics of society and the spectacles of sports and that of a social-event is brought together in Boxing Day test matches and it is more than ordinary thanks to its ritualistic outfit.
The Indian cricket team will definitely be aware of the tradition of the event, but it will be something they are least interested on Saturday. If at all they are caught up in some history, it will be the eight-year streak of being undefeated at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). However, this is rather different for the Indian team, as they are led by Ajinkya Rahane, a new captain in the absence of Virat Kohli. Virat’s absence as a batsman would affect India more than his absence as the captain. Prithvi Shaw, Virat Kohli, Wriddhiman Saha and Mohammed Shami are replaced by Shubman Gill, Ravindra Jadeja, Rishabh Pant and Mohammed Siraj in Saturday’s team. The replacement of Prithvi Shaw was much anticipated considering his performance in the last match. Virat Kohli has announced his absence much earlier. Saha is replaced by Rishabh Pant as the wicketkeeper, probably because of the good overseas record the latter has and because of his performance in the practice match earlier this month. Pant scored 103 runs from 73 balls against Australia A in the practice match. In 2019 January, he became the first Indian wicketkeeper to score a century in Australia. Addition of Pant along with Gill, who also had a good practice match, will strengthen the Indian batting line-up. Jadeja also looks like a welcome change, as India was only mediocre in fielding in the last match. Jadeja who is a top-class fielder, along with his all-round skills would be handy. He could act as the fifth bowler and the seventh batsman. The two additions predicted earlier were Gill and KL Rahul, but to surprise Rahul is not included in the team.
Most of the world is still under Covid-19 fright and report of new virus-strain has further spread panic. One has to observe the match to say if Boxing Day would be as magnificent as in past years. MCG could accommodate over one lakh people but would only have thirty thousand people on match day. The glory of the great MCG and the tradition of Boxing Day may not diminish even amidst the Covid crisis because such is the excitement within the borders. The match will also be held as a homage to the late Australian cricketing legend Dean Jones who died this September. Both teams would look to wrap the year in happy notes and proceed to a rather busy year of cricket.