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India to host day-night Test! You don’t have to look back too much, merely 6 months down the line – Who would have imagined it will be possible in this country?
BCCI have more or less reluctant when it comes to any kind of change that could revolutionise the game. They even don’t have the guts to explain why they are reluctant to welcome new ideas, but they have invariably witnessed any potential revolution with hooded eyes like a ‘closed-eyed yogi’. Initially extremely unwilling to embrace the Twenty20 format – now looks unbelievable, doesn’t it?
Still completely on the negative side of the Decision Review System, the Board of Cricket Control in India have unexpectedly, from nowhere, announced they will host a pink-ball day-night Test this winter when New Zealand will be here for a full tour. Isn’t in dramatic?
At a time when many of the Australian players who actually took part in the inaugural – and so far, only day-night Test in Adelaide against New Zeeland last year have displayed their reservations, mostly in private but very few times on a public platform.
This, at a time when South Africa have insisted they don’t like the idea as they are not yet ready for the pink-ball battle even though Cricket Australia are pushing hard for a day-night Test when the South African team travel during the Australian summer.
This, also at a time when Indian cricketers don’t have any particular experience of playing with a pink ball in a competitive environment.
Then how will India counter a fierce Kiwi bowling attack?
The question must be asked now, are BCCI looking for more outward ideas than inwards? Is this sudden pink-ball ‘love affair’ born out of sheer necessity, due to the dwindling audiences at Test match venues over the recent past? As a matter of fact, it’s the primary reason why day-night Tests came into existence with Australian cricket taking the privilege.
By all means, the ‘Adelaide adventure’ where Australia demolished New Zealand inside three days was to some extent overwhelming. The 22-yard battle only lasted three days, but upwards of 123,000 people thronged the Adelaide Oval. To be fair, global television viewing numbers were also impressive, which forced Cricket Australia to consider the new experiment as an unqualified success.
But what about the cricketers themselves? What about the playing conditions? What about the difficulties of seeing the pink ball? Of the need to protect the colour of the ball a grassy, non-abrasive surface was prepared, but it actually took two main bowling weapons – spin and reverse swing – out of the equation. So how can the void be filled?
Interestingly, long before Australia were able to conceptualise day-night first-class cricket, India showed the light in April 1997 – surprisingly, you may say – when the Ranji Trophy final was held under lights, Captain Roop Singh Stadium in Gwalior witnessed the historical event.
But it was not a pink one, white ball was used; Mumbai and Delhi fought the five-day title clash decided on the first innings during a long scoring contest. Delhi eventually replied to Mumbai’s 630 with 559, maybe it was impressive on its own but obviously well short in the context of the game itself.
The experiment was a complete failure. BCCI’s attempt to bring back life to Ranji cricket didn’t work. Not even the fact that there was provision for a change of ball after 40 overs actually helped; the heavy dew made the situation further worse for the bowlers.
The players were initially delighted with the newness of the concept, but at the end of the day, the majority of the players were desperate to go back to the natural course. “It was fun for a couple of days, but after that it got too much,” Atul Wassan, former India cricketer who spearheaded Delhi’s bowling department in that match, told in an interview later “It was like five one-day matches played one after the other and there was a lot of fatigue.”
Since then BCCI hasn’t tried to organise a first-class match under lights and it’s clearly a pointer that how exactly the idea was received by cricketers and administrators. But now with Anurag Thakur promising a day-night Test at home this year, clearly things have changed.
So what do you think, is Indian cricket ready for the proposed pink-ball Test this winter? Is only one competition, the revamped Duleep Trophy, enough for Team India’s big names – and that’s just assuming the big guns are interested and committed to play a domestic tournament – to adjust themselves while playing the longer format under lights?
What about the dispensing with India’s traditional strength with the help of which South Africa were humiliated 3-0 in a four-Test series last winter? And, most importantly, what about the dew factor? How will you counter this very genuine possibility?
One of the main objectives of organising a day-night Test is to ensure Test cricket is better attended and patronised despite the young generation’s love for shorter formats. It’s sad that slowly the numbers at Test venues have started to dwindle, but some of the venues which in the past never able to attract spectators for the five-day format continue to benefit from the rotation system that BCCI now follow.
Undoubtedly a pink-ball Test will attract the fans in thousands to the venue for this novelty factor, if nothing else, but frankly speaking is that the ultimate and only solution board can offer?
A day-night Test cannot become the norm, so other areas have to be improved to make Test match viewing more pleasurable experience – good pitches, a roof over the head, reasonably priced food and beverages, fun-zones for kids, decent seats, easy accessibility to venues and tickets and, most importantly, clean and non-smelly washroom facilities.
None of this needs a great deal of preparation and efforts, only will and intent can make the deal happen. If these scenarios are addressed, then pink ball or white, Test cricket will continue to come up with vibrant responses and no one will acknowledge the five-day format as cricket’s spiritual home.