The pink ball was first used in a Test between Australia and New Zealand last November. It made its debut in India in a match between Mohun Bagan and Bhowanipore Club at the Eden Gardens in June. Mohammed Shami provided the highlight with a seven-wicket match haul.
Though a majority of the players taking part in the Duleep Trophy, starting on Tuesday at the Greater Noida stadium, must have watched the behaviour of the ball on TV and practised with it, there could still be an element of surprise as the premier domestic tournament makes its debut as a day-night affair.
Drawing in crowds
Pink-ball cricket is an effort to bring more fans to the ground in the evening for first-class and Test cricket. The Adelaide game is the only day-night Test so far, and India shelved plans for one later this year against New Zealand due to uncertainty over how the ball would behave, especially on the abrasive outfield.
“It’s going to be exciting,” said India Red captain Yuvraj Singh. “I have played a lot of cricket, but the pink ball is going to be a challenge and we all are looking forward to facing it. The surprise will be how the ball behaves in the evening under lights. I have played ODI cricket with white ball and enjoyed it. I am sure it will be interesting to face it under lights.”
With a Kookaburra Turf ball to be used for the four-day tie, India Green captain Suresh Raina said evening conditions will be a test. “In the afternoon, conditions are dry and I don’t think the pink ball will be any different from the red ball. The pitch looks a good surface. It might surprise when the evening sets in with the lights coming into play. Dew will also play a big role in making the ball move in the air,” he said.
Spotting the ball
Sighting the pink ball might take time for players used to the red and white balls. India Red trained on Monday afternoon while Green had catching practice under lights.
One issue for batsmen has been sighting the pink ball in the twilight. India Red batsman, Gurkeerat Mann, however, said he had no problems. “I faced the pink ball for the first time today. Before the Duleep Trophy, I was playing league cricket in Mysore and Chennai. But playing the pink ball was absolutely an experience and I enjoyed batting,” he said.
The pink ball is a delight for fast bowlers. It remains hard and swings during the later part of the day. In the Bagan versus Bhowanipore game, Shami swung the ball in the evening and said such match timings are best for a fast bowler. The timings will be like a day-night ODI.
At Eden Gardens, Bagan batsmen came up with different approaches to cover the swing. India stumper Wriddhiman Saha, who scored a century, stood outside the crease and tackled the movement well. Those who stood within the crease faced problems as the ball moved in the air and off the pitch.
Tackling the swing
Will batsmen have a similar plan to succeed against swing in the Duleep Trophy? Mann said: “The best approach is to play close (to the body) and as late as possible. I played with the pink ball today in the nets and didn’t find it any different from the red ball. But during the evening when it swings more, adjustments need to be made. Nothing can be planned in advance and one should play session by session,” Mann said.
The Punjab batsman, like many others had not practised with the pink ball earlier. But he practised with a plastic ball, which fast bowlers use to correct their seam position. “It is a plastic ball with cork and a seam. It is similar in colour but not as bright as the pink ball. I played with it back home to get used to the colour of the ball,” Mann said.
The inter-zonal tournament this year has been converted into a three-team affair. For Indian cricket officials, the biggest concern is whether the ball will last the full 80 overs like the red ball does.
On Tuesday, when India Red face India Green, they might pick the eleven depending on the conditions but the pink ball could still provide an element of surprise. The only way to know is by facing it.
August 23-26: India Red v India Green; August 29-September 1: India Red v India Blue; September 4-7: India Blue v India Green; Final: September 10-14.