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Day/Night Tests: Extra coat of lacquer means more swing during twilight

Eden Gardens all set to make history by hosting India’s first-ever pink-ball Test on November 22. Curator Sujan Mukherjee gives a low-down on the requirements and conditions.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Kolkata | Updated: October 30, 2019 8:13:44 am
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Eden Gardens curator Sujan Mukherjee will use his previous experience – the 2016 CAB Super League final between Mohun Bagan and Bhowanipore was a multi-day, day-night, pink-ball affair – to prepare the pitch for India’s first-ever day-night Test, commencing on November 22.

In a conversation with The Indian Express, Mukherjee gives a low-down on the requirements and conditions.

The pitch needs to have a fair amount of grass cover for a pink-ball Test?

Not necessarily. Eden arguably has the liveliest of pitches in the country and in any case, we keep a certain amount of grass on the pitch for every Test at this venue. That will do. Nothing extra is required.

Explanation: Some grass is required on the pitch to protect the colouring of the pink ball. The lush green Eden outfield helps matters.

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In the Super League final, pink Kookaburra was used and it swung a little more than the red ball, isn’t it?

Yes, the nature of the pink ball is that it swings a little more.

Explanation: The only difference between a pink ball and a red one is that the former has an extra coat of lacquer to help retain its colour a bit longer so that the players can spot it comfortably under lights. And because of this extra coat of lacquer, the ball swings a little longer. And obviously, a pink ball will swing more than a red ball if it is overcast.

Read | Day/Night Tests: All you need to know about the twist in cricket’s oldest format

It is said that the pink ball gets softer quickly. So it could be a problem for the bowlers especially in the evening, given the November dew in Kolkata.

I don’t think so. As because the Test has a 1pm start, only the last two or two-and-a-half hours would be played in the evening. Yes, it’s early sundown in November. But from my experience I can tell you that the dew factor is unlikely to come into play before 7.30pm. So it’s manageable. And we have enough people for roping the ground during breaks and we also use sprays to minimise the dew factor.

Explanation: Dew factor is an issue. And this is one reason why the batting teams usually don’t declare in the final session, for the ball could become like a soap cake, making life difficult for the bowlers.

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There’s something called the ‘twilight zone’ in day-night Tests, when batting becomes difficult.

The ball starts to move a little more during that period, a reason why the batsmen struggle a bit. Then again, a Test batsman is expected to overcome the odds.

Explanation: As dusk melts into evening and floodlights take over, the air just above the pitch becomes more stable, aiding extra swing. As per stats though, the average wickets fall per session in day-night Tests is on and around three.

Does a day-night Test allow spinners to come into play?

Why not? What I have seen in the Super League match, some spinners got decent purchase as the game progressed.

Explanation: On the face of it, India might lose home advantage in a day-night Test, given that spin traditionally has been their strength. Then again, India at the moment boast of one of the best seam attacks in the world even without their x-factor, Jasprit Bumrah. The success of Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma in the recently concluded home series against South Africa, where pitches by and large had a tilt towards the batsmen, attested that.

In 2017, Adelaide had hosted the first-ever day-night Ashes Test, where off-spinner Nathan Lyon had a six-wicket match haul.

All said and done, it would be a luxury to play two spinners in a day-night Test and the conditions might prompt the Indian team management to include three fast bowlers in the playing XI and a spinner. Against South Africa, India fielded five specialist bowlers. At Eden, however, an extra batsman might come at the expense of a bowler.

Ganguly played an instrumental role in convincing Bangladesh to play D/N Test.

Gulf in class

There’s a gulf in class between India and Bangladesh, which all but cancels out the unpredictability and the risk factor. India are the world’s No. 1 Test side for close to three years now. Bangladesh, on the other hand, are ranked ninth and to make matters worse, they would be without Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan. Bangladesh also don’t have a tearaway quick. The visitors’ challenge would be to put up a fight.

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