The bright red caps dotting the field made for a sharp contrast with the Test whites and the lush green of the M Chinnaswamy Stadium outfield.
It promised cheeriness, the dash of spirit Afghanistan are expected to bring to their foray into red-ball cricket.
In their first hour in Test cricket, against India in Bengaluru on Thursday, 14 June, they were as spirited as ever. Their pacers got the ball to move, there were oohs and aahs that accompanied some narrow misses, there were good appeals. Their fielders were busy, Mohammad Shahzad was effervescent. But it was also a reminder that nothing would come easy at this level.
The centre was a hive of activity even before the first ball was bowled. The red carpet was rolled out for a stream of dignitaries.
Salim Durani, 83, the former India all-rounder who was born in Afghanistan, was the special guest for the day.
Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah was welcomed by India’s Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, also India’s first individual silver medal winner at the Olympics, who, between speeches, couldn’t resist having a swing with Shikhar Dhawan’s bat. The leaders of both countries had sent their messages of support.
Dave Richardson, the ICC CEO, presented Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai with a memento, as did the Board of Control for Cricket in India at the toss.
But the most cherished keepsakes of the day will be those red caps. Looking sharp in deep blue blazers over their Test whites, the team and the support staff, lined up for the fruition of a dream.
Along with the caps they’d wear on the field, they were presented commemorative ones. And then, having lost the toss and been asked to bowl, it was time to take the field.
Three slips and a gully in place.
Yamin Ahmadzai runs in to bowl to Murali Vijay – and pulls out at the last minute.
When that first delivery comes, a little delayed, it is a decent one, a length delivery for a leg-bye.
At the other end, Wafadar, tall and lanky, is punished by Shikhar Dhawan when he pitches it short. Vijay, meanwhile, is streaky, almost chopping Ahmadzai onto his stumps and surviving a diving second slip.
Worryingly for Afghanistan, Ahmadzai limps off the field and Mohammad Nabi comes on in the ninth over, Stanikzai forced to bring on spin earlier than he might have liked.
Dhawan, though, is in no mood to go easy on the debutants. He steps out in the first ball of the 11th over to smash a straight six down the ground. The team fifty is up in 53 minutes, Vijay bringing it up with a swept boundary.
At 10.30am local time, just as the sun peeks out from among the clouds, Afghanistan wrap up a first hour of Test cricket. They break for drinks, to regroup. They have been reminded of the patience and graft this format demands. And they will be back for more.