US President Barack Obama arrives in India, but will not get to see Test cricket
Indian President Pranab Mukherjee (left), USA President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Sunday © Getty Images

The time is nigh. The wait is almost over. Barack Obama, President of United States of America, Nobel Prize winner, the most powerful man in the most powerful nation, is on his way, and will probably be on Indian soil by the time this article gets published. Obama will visit great places, meet important people, skip Taj Mahal (the selfie capital of the nation), will energise the country with his august presence the way Narendra Modi had in USA, and go back with vivid memories of the nation.

In other words, the Barack Obama trip will be one to remember, and one that will be talked about in decades to come. After all, it is not every day that an American President walks out of the same airport as you have at some point of time, is it? Thanks to Michael Jackson, Magic Johnson, Michel Jordan (and other people with initials MJ), Hollywood (aren’t the Academy Awards approaching?), MTV, television shows, and Oprah Winfrey, USA is the land of dreams for the average Indian, engineer or otherwise.

However, with MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, and the rest of the Indian cricket team in Australia playing One-Day Internationals (ODIs) just before the World Cup, there is no international cricket in India at this moment. This means that unlike his predecessor Dwight Eisenhower, Obama will not get to see Test cricket at the ground.

Read more about Eisenhower watching a Test at Lahore

Eisenhower was no ordinary person: he sent 15,000 US troops to Lebanon to thwart the Gamal Abdel Nasser-inspired revolution; he had flown the Air Force One’s first ever flight; and added Alaska and Hawaii to make the number of states in USA to 50. On his 1959 trip to Pakistan, Eisenhower, a keen golfer and fisher, attended the fourth day’s play of the third Test between Australia and Pakistan at Karachi.

The Test was going nowhere, and eventually went nowhere. Pakistan (for 287) and Australia (for 257) took three days to get bowled out, the only highlight being Intikhab Alam taking bowling Colin McDonald with his first ball in Test cricket. When play resumed after rest day, Pakistan were nought for no loss.

Eisenhower got to see a tedious day of cricket. After Alan Davidson jolted Pakistan, reducing them to 25 for three, Hanif Mohammad decided to dig in, with company from Duncan Sharpe; Shujauddin Butt also hung around, and Pakistan reached 104 for five when the umpires called stumps with Hanif on 40 and Wallis Mathias on five. Even on Day Five Pakistan did not make an effort, declaring only on 194 after Hanif completed his hundred. Australia never tried to chase 225 in two hours.

The 34th American President cheered every boundary loudly, but alas! There was not much to cheer for him! Cricket remembers December 8, 1959 as the only day when an American President was present at the ground to watch a Test. As Wisden wrote: “Mr [Dwight] Eisenhower watched play on the fourth day and as he was the first Unites States President to see Test cricket, his visit may well be remembered long after this disappointing game is forgotten.”

How right they were! Unfortunately, such a fortune does not await Obama, at least on this trip. Now, if he wants to return this winter…