Was visibility an issue with the pink ball, especially under lights say the second session?
Yes. You have to concentrate a little extra and spend little bit more time at the crease to get used to it. When it comes to red ball, visibility isn’t an issue at all during the day. But with pink ball under lights, when you walk in to bat during the second or the third session, visibility can be a bit of a problem as you are sitting in the dressing room and suddenly you are walking in under lights. It swings a bit more. So you have to spend little more time at the crease, try to get used to that light and then may be you can start playing your shots.
Under lights with pink ball, do you see it a bit late from the bowler’s hand? What exactly happens?
I wouldn’t say late but it’s slightly different for sure. May be since I have played just one innings in that situation, I felt it that way. May be if I play more, then I can comment on the exact thing, but it was different. I was there under lights for 30-45 minutes before dew started to come in and the ball stopped moving as much; it got a little easier. Also, it gets dark a bit earlier in Kolkata. The weather is different at this point of time — there was a bit of hazy atmosphere and that can also add some visibility issues. These are all guesses — I am not entirely sure as it’s all early days as of now. How it would play in different venues needs to be seen.
What’s your take on its future? Would pink ball become a staple?
One-off Test match in a year is fine. If you want crowd to come in and create an atmosphere. But not on a regular basis I would say. I am sure Test cricket will be mainly played with the red ball. Once in a while, you might play with pink ball but majority of the game will be played with the red ball.
There is also a concern that the conditions (grass cover and lush outfields to ensure pink colour doesn’t fade quickly), and the dew factor in lights could negate reverse swing and spin. The thought was is it wise to negate our own strengths in India?
I am no one to have a say on this. BCCI will take a call. What I am saying is, going forward, if we play one-off game with pink it will be fine. I certainly don’t see a situation in a five-match series, we are playing three with pink ball! I don’t think it will as far as I know but time will tell. One-off game in a year is fine.
There was a talk that the pink ball was harder. What’s your take on its hardness?
Any pink ball you play with is the same, be it the SG manufactured ball as the Kolkata Test was or the Kookaburra. But yes, the pink ball is certainly harder than the red ball. And it does travel a bit faster than the red or even the white ball. I am guessing it’s because of the extra coating of lacquer on it (more than white) and may be because of its hardness too I am not sure but it does travel faster. Also, it sort of moves/wobbles a bit, swings more than the white ball and that also makes it challenging in slips. But yes it does come through a lot quicker than the red.
Was playing in lights one of the reasons Bangladesh batsmen got hit by bouncers?
They didn’t have any first-class experience with the pink ball and our fast bowlers are a lot quicker. Plus, the nature of pink ball being that much quicker as I said. All this would have played a part.
Now, Australia and other overseas teams are pushing for pink-ball Tests in their conditions against India. How do you see the pink ball going there?
I am sure the fast bowlers will get a lot of assistance overseas with the pink ball. In case if we play in Australia – I am not sure what’s going to happen. Let’s see what BCCI decides… Once the ball gets old, we can still manage to score some runs, pink-ball games haven’t been high-scoring so far.
Beyond the debate on whether as a team should India play more pink ball Tests or not, as a batsman how was the challenge? Did you enjoy it?
I enjoyed the challenge, yeah. It’s a different experience altogether. I wouldn’t say one needs different technique but a different approach. When you are batting in the first session, the ball will come on nicely and you can play your shots. Even if its new ball, it doesn’t swing as much as say a new red ball would in early morning. This starts in the afternoon only and it’s easier that time. With red ball, the first session becomes very important, with the ball seaming around and stuff. It’s other way around with the pink ball. The second session when lights come on becomes crucial. You might have to leave a few more balls in the second session than what you might have to do in the first session.
You didn’t have too much practice with the pink ball. How did you manage?
To bat in twilight period with pink ball, it’s little difficult. Most important thing was to have as many net session as possible under lights and we tried doing it. Couple of sessions at NCA before first Test and then one net session in Kolkata. Going forward, if we are going to play anymore pink-ball Tests, there should be lot more net sessions as possible.
You got fifties in both innings you played in this series but didn’t go on. How disappointed were you?
This Test match (Kolkata) I wasn’t disappointed. As I got a good ball. I was in control with the way I was batting but that ball had bit more bounce and pace in it. I couldn’t have done much differently; I was set, I was playing so well and you get one ball that behaves slightly differently. It had more pace from the pitch – it wasn’t as if the bowler was trying little more in it, I thought the pitch made that ball come quickly and extra bounce.
Indore I was a bit disappointed with the shot; I thought I could drive but it wasn’t that full enough to drive. Overall, I am happy with the way I am batting. I am happy with the way I was timing the ball, the fluency in the shots, my footwork in these two innings. I was really happy with that.
Do you sometimes get so angry that you find yourself getting in the night and cursing or something?! Like with that Indore shot, it was a very breezy shots-filled knock from you.
(Laughs). No no, I don’t do that. That is something I have learnt over a period of time that you got to deal with it. Look, a Test 50 isn’t a failure! Sometimes people think that 50 in a Test match for Pujara is a failure – it’s good to have those expectations but you have to be happy with what you have done. 50 isn’t easy! If I am to score 50 in every innings from here on, I will take it! There is always a room for improvement even if you score hundred.
At Indore, you started to play your shots from the word go. What was happening there? Did you come out thinking that you were going to play your shots?
It just happened. I don’t come out with a mindset like that. I found that I was moving fluently, the timing was great and I started to play like that. I was trying to convert the loose balls into fours. You don’t predetermine stuff like that in Test cricket; it was happening naturally. Unless you are looking to declare or something, you don’t pre determine. In first innings, you go out there, assess the conditions and react.
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A question on the fast bowlers. How does it feel to stand in the slips to this pace pack?
The best part is you are never sleeping in the slips!
Sometimes, you tend to relax but with the current fast bowlers you are always on your toes. You feel a catch can come any ball. It’s a proud feeling. You are always alert. You know that one ball can come anytime. It actually makes slip fielding easier – because you are alert, anticipating that the ball would come any time, and you are so much in the game, in the moment. It’s a great feeling. It’s a proud moment.
To know your bowling unit (just not fast bowlers) can do something special. I remember the Adelaide Test, we got for 250 or something and we still bowled Australia out under it and got a lead. That was a special feeling. To see the bowlers bowl teams less than 250 out on a decent pitch was a great feeling. We are now confident that our bowlers can bowl them out like that.
And it’s just not the bowlers who are playing in the team, the ones waiting outside are also good.
Your slip cordon seems to stand close to each other. The gap between the slip fielders – first and second or second and third seems narrower than other teams like Australia or South Africa. What’s the rationale, is it that you don’t want to dive too much?
When the ball is new, the edges come finer. If you look at our slip cordon with the old ball, we are a bit spread out. It’s important to have right distance between slips; you don’t want the ball to go between the fielders. When the ball is new, it travels faster and you don’t want to let it go through. You can dive when the ball is a bit old as you have more time.
But when its new, it makes sense to stand the way we do. Also, since its in India, the second slip would stand a lot closer than the first slip. To catch the ball that drops shorter or flies low. The third slip is even further ahead of the second slip. Then you know that if it’s a low catch, the other fielder will go for it. If the ball is higher and coming towards the first slip, the second slip knows that he doesn’t have to go for it. There is no confusion.