India are “very excited” about playing a pink-ball Test, their captain Virat Kohli has said ahead of the two-match series against Bangladesh. India and Bangladesh are the only Test teams other than newly-promoted Ireland and Afghanistan who haven’t yet played a day-night Test. They will both experience the format for the first time when they play the second Test in Kolkata.
“It’s quite exciting,” Kohli said. “I think it’s a new way to bring excitement to Test cricket. We are all very excited about that. The pink ball I played yesterday, I felt it swings a lot more as compared to the red ball because there’s extra lacquer on the ball which doesn’t go away too fast. And the seam holds upright quite a bit.
“I think if the pitch has extra help for the bowlers then the bowlers will be in the game, especially fast bowlers, throughout the course of the Test match. I don’t quite know how the old ball behaves with the dew and the lacquer going off. It will be interesting to see how much the old ball does. With the pink ball, with the pitch having enough, the life in it will be a very important factor.”
The first day-night Test, between Australia and New Zealand, took place in December 2015. India have been the No. 1 ranked Test team for the majority of the period since then, but they have been generally reluctant to play with the pink ball.
A brief domestic trial was met with lukewarm responses from the players, and on their tour of Australia last year, India declined to play a day-night Test in Adelaide. New BCCI president Sourav Ganguly, however, was keen on staging a day-night Test in Kolkata, and he met Kohli and found him to be on the same page.
“Kohli is agreeable to it,” Ganguly said last month. “I see a lot of reports in newspapers that he is not, but that is not true. The game needs to go forward and that is the way forward. People should finish work and come to watch champions play. I don’t know when that will happen, but it will.”
At the moment, India sit on top of the World Test Championship with wins in all the five games they’ve played, and are strong favourites to win the first Test in Indore. By the time the day-night game comes along in Kolkata, they could have further consolidated their position on the table.
In many ways, including the fact that Bangladesh are without two star players, it seems like the ideal time for an experiment that Kohli expects to be challenging. Some batsmen trained with the pink ball at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru ahead of the series, but for most part, the players will have to try and sneak in pink-ball practice sessions whenever they can. They did this on Tuesday, alternating between red and pink.
“I hadn’t played with the pink ball before,” Kohli said. “I was given an opportunity to try and I wanted to, so that was my mindset behind playing with the pink ball. I think everyone else did it as well. You require extra concentration to pick the pink ball suddenly when you’re playing with the red ball. It [the alternating] was to work on the reflexes a little bit as well. Because when you play with the red ball in the net and you arrive at the pink ball, it gets very difficult to pick it up, which can be the case in the game as well. It sort of gives you the match scenario and how it might be difficult to pick it early on. To get into that zone was the reason behind it.”
Kohli did emphasize, however, that despite the limited opportunities available to prepare for the day-night Test, the focus is still very much on the first Test in Indore.
“In Test cricket I don’t think you can afford to take focus away at all, not even one session, not even one over,” he said. “With the red ball you need to be absolutely precise in your focus, every game that you play, every ball that you play, every situation that you are in. Our prime focus is tomorrow’s Test match. When the pink-ball Test match arrives, as I said we will be quite excited about it.”