THE THREE days of the inaugural pink ball Day/Night Duleep Trophy encounter between India Red and India Green have thrown up contrasting results, adding layers of intrigue to this new format. With 277 runs and 17 wickets, it was the bowlers who ruled the roost on Day 1. The narrative was different on the second and third days. Close to 400 runs were scored for the loss of just six wickets on Day 2. On Thursday, 413 runs were made and 14 wickets were taken. Out of these nine were scalped by the spinners. Here are some of the game’s talking points.
Batsmen make hay
The pink ball did move around a bit in the opening session on the first day. Both Sandeep Sharma and Ankit Rajpoot got the ball to move around early on, putting India Red’s in strife. By tea on the opening day, Yuvraj’s team were struggling at 6/67. India Green’s opening batsman Robin Uthappa believes the pitch on Day 1 was more receptive to fast bowlers, while in the evening session, it seamed around even more alarmingly when India Red’s tearaway fast bowler Nathu Singh was operating.
“The ball definitely did a bit in the afternoon session on Day 1, and in the evening under lights, it was an altogether a different experience as Nathu was bowling a good pace, which was backed by bounce, so it was a little unsettling for the batsmen on the first day. But I guess, every four-day wicket does a bit on the opening day,” Uthappa says, adding the best phase to bat was in the second session on Day 2. “I think the best time to bat with this ball is in the second session. The ball gets slightly older then and it becomes easier to bat. They (Reds) batted really well and we gave a chance (Chatterjee was let off on 74) as well and they capitalised on it.” To put things in perspective, India Red’s opener Abhinav Mukund and No.3 Sudeep Chatterjee put on 172 runs in 35 overs in the second session leading to the dinner break. Mukund, who scored a fluent 77 in the first innings to follow it up with an exquisite century in the second, concurs with Uthappa’s views. “I think the ball came on to the bat much better in the evening session on Day 2. There was a little bit of seam movement initially with the new ball, and it’s starting to turn a little bit,” he says. Things were much the same for the batters on Day 3. Uthappa and Jalaj Saxena got India Green off to a rollicking start, scoring 122 runs in just 22 overs in the evening session.
Adjusting to the new format
Despite all the excitement and buzz surrounding the pink ball and playing under lights, Uthappa felt the biggest challenge for players is the adjustment they have to make to the new format. “It looks good. We have to give it time. Everything changes. The play starts late and you end very late. The more you play this format, the more you will get used to it. There has been a lot of night (day-night) cricket with T20 and one-day and so I feel that once we play this format on a regular basis we will get used to it. Lot of preparation happens and we don’t quite know how to prepare for this new format just yet. The more we play, the more we will understand how to play and adapt in this format,” he said.
No reverse swing
There was swing and seam movement on offer for the fast bowlers on Day 1. Green’s opening bowling Sandeep Sharma picked up four wickets, while Nathu Singh bagged six for the Reds. However, there was no reverse swing happening for them. “We tried to get it to reverse, by scruffing up one side, but it didn’t help,” Uthappa said. The issue with the pink ball is that it remains harder and more durable for longer period of time as compared to the traditional red SG ball. Hence, it becomes tough for the fast bowlers to extract reverse swing with the pink Kookaburra ball. However, on Day 3, the pink ball did go out of shape and had to be changed on two occasions. But the interesting aspect was that the shine was very much intact.
Visibility not an issue
The pink ball’s visibility is not much of a concern really. “Spotting the pink ball is not an issue. But I think the ball changes colour when the light comes into effect. Towards the evening it becomes orange in colour, but again in the night it becomes pink. Some players have felt the ball dip on them, especially when the spinners are operating, so this could be a factor, “ Green’s opener noted. India Red’s left-arm chinaman Kuldeep Yadav, who picked up three wickets on Day 1, admitted it was difficult to spot the pink ball in the afternoon session. “It becomes difficult for batsmen to pick the ball when both sides of the ball retains it’s shine. However, there is no problem regarding visibility in the evening session,” he told Star Sports.
Grip and dip for spinners
Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh has been the biggest detractor of the pink ball. The 36-year-old felt it would be a nightmare for spinners. His logic being the pink Kookaburra ball’s seam was not as pronounced as the traditional Duke ball. Therefore, he reckons it was more difficult gripping it. But India Green’s left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, who bagged three wickets in the first innings, was surprised at the pink ball’s durability. “I think for the first time we never had a problem of maintaining the ball. It was something we were experiencing for the first time. If we play with the red ball or the white ball there are be some changes that will occur, it deteriorates. I don’t think (it will be a problem for the spinners).” Kuldeep felt the pink ball gripped on the surface a lot more than the red ball, because it was harder and, therefore, easier to maintain. “If you get used to the pink ball, you can get it to drift and turn.” On Day 3, Kuldeep Yadav and Shreyes Gopal got into the act, picking up five wickets apiece.
Pitch conducive for shotmakers
Like most four-day pitches in the country, the track here at Greater Noida with 4mm grass cover provided ample assistance to the bowlers on Day 1. Fast bowlers like Sandeep Sharma and Nathu Singh got it to swing and seam respectively, while spinners Pragyan Ojha and Kuldeep Yadav got grip and appreciable dip. The strip eased out considerably on second day, making strokeplay more conducive. Uthappa said: “I think yes, the wicket did ease out a little bit more on the second day. Hopefully it will stay the same.”