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?
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