October 31, 2019 12:54:48 am
On November 22 at the Eden Gardens, Indian cricket will step into the unknown. The Test against Bangladesh will see the country embrace Test cricket under the floodlights, that many think is a cure for poor turnouts. Eden’s spectacular backdrop will come in handy to those tasked with re-advertising the game’s oldest format. With the sun slipping into the clouds, and as the Kolkata fans throng the stands, Eden will be the place to be.
The day and night format, many including the newly coronated Indian cricket board president Sourav Ganguly believe, is the way forward. Certainly, the afternoon start will be more convenient to the fans — students needn’t bunk schools and office-goers needn’t think of excuses to watch some of the game. Yet the move could hold some of the game’s intrinsic charm hostage. It also throws up an important question: Does cricket have room for a fourth format, another mutant wherein the tactics and strategies are vastly different? For instance, there would be less of the fabled first-hour intrigue and more of twilight mystery. It’s at dusk that the pink ball is said to begin showing its true nature. It’s the time when the floodlights merge with the twilight sun, forming a spectrum that begins to play tricks with the batsmen’s vision. Besides, the pink ball, with its extra lacquer, could assist more swing, and even on the subcontinent, batting first would not be the obvious choice for captains winning the toss. With batting becoming difficult, matches wouldn’t last till the fifth day. The joy of watching the ball exploding off the cracks or fleet-footed batsmen dousing them with supremely soft hands and cool heads might be a thing of the past.
For the sake of cricket’s heterogeneity and tradition, pink-ball cricket is best consumed in moderation. It shouldn’t be the staple — rather, the odd night out. While cricket officials must be concerned about dwindling Test crowds, and they need to devise countermeasures, the intrinsic joys of the game must be protected. The future of Test cricket shouldn’t call for an erasing of its past.
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