Twilight in the spotlight as India begin a pink fight

Virat Kohli gives catches during a training session ahead of first pink ball Day-Night cricket Test match between India and Bangladesh in Kolkata. PTI

Mohammed Shami isn’t unaccustomed to the organised chaos that Kolkata is, having moved to the Bengal capital to provide wings to his cricketing dreams. The Indian pacer isn’t new to the pink ball either, having played the first day-night multi-day match with the newest innovation in cricket at the Eden Gardens, which is decked up in pink to host the maiden D/N Test on the Indian soil.

Given the form of the Indian pace attack and the pink ball’s reputation as being the best ally of faster bowlers, Shami and company will be eager to add to the batting chaos of visiting Bangladesh, whose line-up is looking anemic in the absence of two of their best batsmen – Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan.

As much as Shami and the rest of the pace attack would be excited about the prospect of bowling with the pink ball, India’s otherwise prolific batsmen and spinners would be looking forward to the challenge with a sense of unease. While the batsmen are grappling with the issue of the twilight zone -- when the sun would be setting and the artificial lights would be coming on, making ball-sighting difficult -- spinners are fretting over the lack of turn.

Besides the long-lasting shine due to extra lacquer on the pink ball, the dew too is expected to add to their woes. Cricket being a winter sport in India – the IPL has occupied two months of summer only in the last decade or so – dew is going to be a real factor, notwithstanding an early start and measures to contain it using chemicals.

And while the pacers will rejoice in the prodigious conventional swing when the ball is new and again during the twilight phase when the overhead conditions aid movement in the air, the extra grass on the pitch and the slow wear and tear of the ball take away one of the primary weapons from their armoury – reverse swing – in this part of the world.

Apart from these issues, it will also be interesting to see how players – irrespective of the trade they ply – deal with the body clock that will have to make quick adjustments to the changed timings.

While players are used to D/N one-dayers, doing it over five days is a whole different ball game. Much before the pink-ball idea was thought about, India held the Ranji Trophy final between Mumbai and Delhi in Gwalior in 1997 under lights with a white ball and coloured clothing. For Mumbai batsman Amol Muzumdar, coping with the body clock was the biggest challenge.

“To play five consecutive days of day-night cricket was a huge change,” he wrote in Sportstar. “A day-night game takes a lot out of you. And unlike a one-day or a T20 game, where you can sleep the next day because you are tired, here we had to brace ourselves up and focus on the match every single day. That was a huge task. Our sleep patterns and eating patterns changed. I remember, on the fourth night, Sanjay (Mumbai captain Sanjay Manjrekar) called for a team meeting at the end of the day’s play; it was very late. It was well past midnight when we all met and I am sure that was the only team meeting I had attended that late.” 

After years of reluctance to embrace the pink-ball adventure, the Virat Kohli-led Indian team has dramatically agreed to play one in a short notice. Mind you, when the schedule was drawn for the two-Test series against Bangladesh, it wasn’t meant to be a D/N Test. Since the ascension of Sourav Ganguly -- a long-time advocate of pink-ball cricket -- as BCCI president, things have moved rather quickly in that direction.

While Kohli and company have showed remarkable attitude and skills to adapt to each condition thrown at them, they would have ideally preferred to first familiarise themselves with the pink ball. With that opportunity being taken away from the players, India have their task cut out even if the opposition happens to be a struggling Bangladesh.

 

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