India vs Bangladesh: Pink ball Test should not become a regular affair - Virat Kohli
The growing concerns over limited turnout in Test matches across the country prompted Ganguly to make his first big move of announcing a Day/Night Test within weeks after taking over BCCI’s 39th president.Updated: Nov 21, 2019 18:34 IST
It may have taken just three seconds—according to BCCI president Sourav Ganguly—for Virat Kohli to give his nod for India’s first ever day-night Test, but the India captain is certain this shouldn’t be the only way to play Test cricket. “This can be a one-off thing. It should not, in my opinion, become a regular scenario,” said Virat Kohli, a day before the historic pink ball Test under lights against Bangladesh at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata.
Growing concern over limited turnouts at Test venues prompted Ganguly to announce a day-night Test within weeks of taking over as the 39th president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Ticket sales surged after that as the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) confirmed a full house for the first three days of the Test. Kohli, however, said tinkering with the basic idea of Test cricket just to make it entertaining should not define its future.
“You can bring excitement into Test cricket but you can’t purely make Test cricket based on just entertainment. The entertainment of Test cricket lies in a batsman trying to survive a session, a bowler trying to set up a batsman. If people don’t want to respond to that, too bad. If I don’t like Test cricket, you can’t push me to like it. Those who enjoy the battle between bat and ball and great session of Test cricket, in my opinion, those are the people that should come and watch Test cricket because they understand what’s going on,” said Kohli.
Cricket has constantly evolved to keep up with changing times. The first day-night ODI was played eight years after the format was introduced in 1971. This was done after Australian TV mogul Kerry Packer brought international cricket to almost a standstill by organising an unrecognised breakaway series involving Australian, West Indian and World XIs playing under lights in 1977. Having realised its potential, the Australian Cricket Board quickly made a pact with Packer that ended the series in 1979. On November 27, 1979, the first official day-night ODI, between Australia and West Indies was hosted at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Exactly 36 years later, Adelaide hosted the first day-night Test, a decision taken after years of deliberation triggered by dipping footfall at major venues. Since 2015, 10 more day-night Tests have been hosted in Australia, England, South Africa, New Zealand, the Caribbean and the UAE. The concept of playing first-class cricket under lights was first tried at a Sheffield Shield game in 1996 but the results weren’t encouraging enough. It took Australia 29 years since then to finally host a day-night Test.
For India, the transition took longer. It was only in 2016 that the pink ball made its first appearance during a CAB Super League final at Eden Gardens. The experiment was taken forward to three seasons of Duleep Trophy. But trying it in international cricket was still off the table. Till last month, India were the only team—along with Bangladesh—to have not embraced this version. The BCCI, in fact, had turned down Cricket Australia’s proposal to play the second Test match under lights in Adelaide during their last tour in 2018-19. “It had to happen eventually. The thing was to experience the pink ball test in our own conditions first so you get a hang of how the ball behaves. Then eventually going on and playing pink ball Test anywhere in the world,” said Kohli.
Kohli also echoed Rahul Dravid’s view of drafting a proper calendar to allow fans to plan for a particular Test, like in the case of Boxing Day in Australia. “I think Rahul bhai mentioned this recently if you have a Test calendar where the series and Tests are fixed it will bring a lot more system and sync into people planning their calendars as well. It can’t be random saying you never know when a Test match is going to arrive.”
Kohli and Dravid were not only ones raising concerns over making day-night Tests a regular affair. Bangladesh spin bowling consultant Daniel Vettori too said that schedules shouldn’t be overloaded with pink ball Tests. “It will certainly be a big part of Test cricket but it has to be balanced out with day cricket,” Vettori had said on Wednesday. Bangladesh captain Mominul Haque welcomed the concept. “I think competition between the two sides is more important to make Test cricket interesting. If you want to bring more people then pink ball Test is a good opportunity,” said Haque.
Praising the BCCI for always giving priority to Test cricket, Kohli highlighted the role of cricket boards in reviving Test cricket. “From the BCCI point of view, the only discussion we have had over the last 2-3 years is how we can keep Test cricket right up there. If you look at how exciting as a team we have been in the last 2-3 years, that tells you in the way people come and watch us play as well. I think it’s a partnership of the board and the players moving in one direction together.”
India’s central contract system, which gives special importance to Test specialists, could be a good way to encourage more cricketers to aspire to play the longest format, believed Kohli. “Our main goal was to tell the Test players, you guys are the most important as the other formats are taken care of anyway. You have so many people coming up and playing white ball cricket. But Test specialists are difficult to find. Only someone who has gone through the grind in first-class cricket for 5-6 years and still continuing to do so are the ones who eventually make it,” said Kohli.