The Coliseum of Indian cricket, Eden Gardens, will be the setting for a historic moment in late November as it will host the country’s first-ever Day-Night Test match. Bangladesh have agreed to the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) proposal to play a pink-ball Test during the upcoming tour to India. It is indeed a historic occasion – Bangladesh will tour India only for the second time in their history and will play at Kolkata – a city with which they share close cultural and historical links. According to reports, their premier Sheikh Hasina is also expected for the game. It’s fair to say that the new BCCI president and former India captain, Sourav Ganguly, has a good sense of history.
Historically though, Indian cricket has been a little late to adapt or embrace new facets of the game. In the 1970s, they were the last major nation to feature in a One-Day International (ODI), which came during their 1974 tour to England. Not only that but India only hosted its first ODI on home soil in 1981 – a good decade after the format came into existence. Also, India was one of the last, albeit a little reluctant, to adopt T20 cricket. They played their first domestic T20 tournament in only 2007, almost four years after the format’s inception. However, once India were in, they were in for the long haul.
As one can see, the 1990s saw the boom of one-day cricket with India in its centre. That coincided with India’s rise in the economic world and in cricket, the shorter format was seen as the cash cow. History repeated with T20 cricket as India went on to win the inaugural ICC World T20 2007 and later staged the Indian Premier League (IPL), a pathbreaking tournament, which till date is the world’s most prestigious domestic event.
Likewise, India are the last to play a Day-Night Test (along with Bangladesh; and if we leave out the new entrants Ireland and Afghanistan). This comes at a time when there have been questions over the attendances at Test matches in India. The recent India-South Africa Test series saw sparse crowds, particularly at Pune and Ranchi. Captain Virat Kohli even spoke about the possibility of having five major Test centres, which get better crowds, and playing limited-overs cricket at the smaller venues. A Day-Night Test promises to give the classical game a shot in the arm.
Kohli’s suggestion to have the five Test centres makes sense! The newer venues such as Pune, Ranchi, Rajkot and Visakhapatnam, to name a few are situated far away from the city centres, making it tougher for fans to travel, particularly on working days. The stadiums at Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore are all in the hearts of their respective cities, making it easier for the fans to make it. Indore too has its stadium inside the city and saw good crowds during its first Test in 2016. It also makes greater sense to have Day-Night Tests at such venues as the fans could visit the stadium soon after work from the business centres. To start things, Kolkata is a great choice.
Questions Over The Ball
The main questions, however, surround the quality of the pink ball. As compared to the red-ball, it doesn’t last as long. It’s been a few years since India has played the Duleep Trophy with the pink ball in an attempt to gather vital practice and information, although the tournament returned to the original day format this year. While Day-Night Test cricket is good for the game in the long run, the ball does present teething issues.
In 2018, Sportstar quoted India international, Abhinav Mukund, after the Duleep Trophy, “I am not too sure if the ball is adaptable to the Indian conditions. There is absolutely no assistance to the bowlers once the ball gets old. Also, the spinners find it difficult as they have to solely rely on line and length with minimal assistance from the ball. The board should work something out if they want this to be a regular feature.”
As India prepares for this occasion, Times of India reported that there are questions over the quality and supply of the pink ball. A board official was quoted as saying, “The Indian grounds are not as soft as the ones in England or Australia. They are rough and balls didn’t retain shape after 20-30 overs (In the Duleep Trophy).”
While India have now found a good balance between its pace and spin attack at home, Bangladesh bank heavily on their spinners. For both sides, adapting to the challenge is the key once the ball gets older, and it would be interesting to see how they manage it.
While these challenges pose questions, it is good to know that India and Bangladesh are making a start with Day-Night Test cricket. As the game goes on and this format of the game becomes more popular, the administrators will push to find a solution to the problem with the ball. For now, it’s a start…