India to Play Day-Night Test, But Are We Too Late to the Party?
Just two days after becoming only the second Indian captain to hold the president’s post, Ganguly on 25 October confirmed that skipper Virat Kohli was “agreeable” to the idea of playing the team’s first pink-ball Test.
The BCCI then extended a proposal to the Bangladesh Cricket Board that the second Test of the two-match series, scheduled to be played in Kolkata starting 22 November, be a day-night game.
The BCB accepted the same on Tuesday, 29 October, meaning that Eden Gardens will witness two teams clash in their first-ever day-night Test – a long-time coming for both sides who were the only among the leading Test nations not to have featured in one.
First of Day-Night Tests
After years of experimenting in domestic and non-official ties, the ICC in a bid to attract more viewers to the longest format, changed playing conditions in Tests to allow day-night games in 2012. However, the onus to adopt the format was left to the respective nations’ cricket boards, and it was only three years later that the first-ever day-night Test was played.
Playing with the Kookaburra pink ball, hosts Australia – strong advocates of the format – took on and defeated New Zealand at Adelaide Oval in November 2015. Since then, nations including England, Pakistan, South Africa and West Indies have all played at least one day-night Test even as India continued to dodge it.
India’s First Experiments With Pink-Ball Cricket
India first experimented with pink-ball cricket during the Duleep Trophy domestic championship in 2016, but decided to switch back to the traditional format after three seasons, with the games being played in the day with red balls this year.
There were multiple objections to the pink SG ball in use, with the bowlers – spinners mainly – complaining that the pink lacquer used was of inferior quality and it took them out of equation. The batsmen complained that the pink ball was difficult to sight during twilight hours when the ball swings the most.
The same year, the CAB's Super League final between Mohun Bagan and Bhowanipore Club played at Eden Gardens was a day-night game played with the pink ball.
India Turn Down Day-Night Test
Three years after the first day-night Test match, Australia had invited India to play a pink-ball game at its unofficial home venue Adelaide during the tour of 2018-19. Virat Kohli and co had however declined the offer, saying that the team wasn’t ready even as some claimed that India didn’t want to hurt their chances of winning on Aussie soil by experimenting with the format.
Head coach Ravi Shastri had even agreed to play day-night Tests against West Indies at home before deciding to inform the Committee of Administrators that the team wasn't ready. He had said that the team would need 12 to 18 months to prepare for the challenge of playing against the pink ball under lights.
Ganguly Pushes for Change, But Doubts Remain
Ganguly has always backed pink ball Tests, even recommending that domestic tournaments be played under lights during his time as the head of the BCCI's technical committee in 2016-17.
Had the then-administrators paid any heed to his suggestions, India would not be in the midst of a big problem that they are now facing.
Besides, the fact that Indian players have little or no experience of playing with the pink ball, there is little stock with the BCCI when it comes to quality SG pink balls. The board in fact, may now be forced to speak to either Kookaburra or Dukes to provide with quality pink balls as the SG balls used earlier in domestic cricket lost its shape and shine and was almost unusable after a point.