Dew Dili­gence: A Day-Night Too Early?

The BCCI is hop­ing to host a day-night test in In­dia, pos­si­bly within six months. But are the play­ers ready?

The Economic Times - - Sports: The Great Games - R Kaushik

A day-night Test in In­dia? As early as six months down the line? Who would have thought that pos­si­ble? The BCCI have gen­er­ally been ret­i­cent when it comes to change.They­don’tclam­beron­torooftop­sto ex­plain­when­the­yarere­luc­tant­toem­brace new ideas, but they have in­vari­ably looked at any po­ten­tial rev­o­lu­tion with hooded eyes, if not dag­gers drawn.

Ex­tremely un­will­ing ini­tially to buy into the Twenty20 for­mat — seems in­cred­i­ble now, doesn’t it? — and still to­tally dis­trust­fuloftheDe­ci­sionRe­viewSys­tem,theBCCI havesud­denly,un­ex­pect­edly,dra­mat­i­cally even,saidthey­will­hostapink-bal­lTest­this win­ter, when New Zealand come call­ing.

This, at a time when sev­eral of the Aus­tralian play­ers who played in the in­au­gu­ral — and, to date, only — day-night Test in­Ade­laidea­gain­st­theKi­wis­lastyearhave ex­pressedtheir­reser­va­tions,large­ly­in­pri­vate but oc­ca­sion­ally on a pub­lic plat­form too. And In­dia’s crick­eters have had ab­so­lutely no ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing with a pink ball in a com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment.

Is it that the BCCI are now look­ing more out­wards than in­wards? Is it that, hav­ing em­barked on an ini­tia­tive de­signed to change the per­cep­tion of the crick­et­ing world, they are more taken in by win­ning friends? Or is this pink-ball affection born out of ne­ces­sity, be­cause of dwin­dling au­di­ences at Test match venues, which was the pri­mary rea­son why day-night Tests came into ex­is­tence in the first place.

By all ac­counts, the Ade­laide ex­pe­ri­ence when Aus­tralia crushed New Zealand in­side three days was over­whelm­ing. The match only lasted three days, but up­wards of 123,000 peo­ple thronged the Ade­laide Oval. Global tele­vi­sion view­ing num­bers were equally impressive, forc­ing Cricket Aus­tralia to la­bel the ex­per­i­ment as an un­qual­i­fied suc­cess.

But what of the play­ers them­selves? What of the play­ing con­di­tions? Of the need to have a grassy, non-abra­sive sur­face so that the ball doesn’t lose its colour, but which also takes two ma­jor bowl­ing weapons — spin and re­verse swing — out of the equa­tion?

Long be­fore the orig­i­nal crick­et­ing giants con­cep­tu­alised day-night first-class cricket, In­dia had led the way — sur­pris­ingly, one might say — in April 1997 when the­fi­naloftheRan­jiTro­phy­washel­dun­der light­sattheCap­tainRoopSinghS­ta­di­u­min Gwalior. In­stead of pink, white was the colourofthe­ball;Mum­ba­iandDel­hicon­tested the five-day ti­tle clash de­cided on the first in­nings in a tall-scor­ing con­test that saw Delhi re­ply to Mum­bai’s 630 with 559.

The ex­per­i­ment was shelved as quickly as it was at­tempted. Not even the fact that there was pro­vi­sion for a change of ball after 40 overs helped; the heavy dew added fur­ther to the bowlers’ woes, and while the play­ers were ini­tially taken in by the new­ness of the con­cept, by the end, a ma­jor­ity couldn’t wait for the game to run its nat­u­ral course. “It was fun for a cou­ple of days, but after that it got too much,” Atul Was­san, the for­mer In­dia pace­man who was Delhi’s spear­head in that match. “It was like five one-day matches played one after the other and there was a lot of fa­tigue.”

Is one tour­na­ment, the re­vamped Duleep Tro­phy, enough for In­dia’s big guns — and that’s as­sum­ing the big guns are avail­able to play in the tour­na­ment — to get used to play­ing the longer for­mat un­der lights? What of dis­pens­ing with In­dia’s tra­di­tional strength — spin? And, most cru­cially, what of the dew? How does one counter that very gen­uine pos­si­bil­ity?

A day-night Test can’t be­come the norm, so other ar­eas have to be looked into to make it a plea­sur­able ex­pe­ri­ence — good pitches, de­cent seats, easy ac­ces­si­bil­ity to venues and tick­ets, rea­son­ably priced food and­bev­er­ages,fun-zones­forkid­sand,most cru­cially, clean and non-smelly wash­room fa­cil­i­ties. None of this re­quires a great deal of­ef­for­tor­prepa­ra­tion,on­ly­wil­land­in­tent.

The need to have a grassy, nonabra­sive sur­face to keep the pink ball vis­i­ble takes spin and re­verse swing out of the equa­tion

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