The pink ball seems to have passed its first challenge in India. And that is excellent. As I have often argued, even though it is possibly sometime in the distance, it could be the future of test cricket. It is a form of the game that is difficult to sustain with changing lifestyles, preferences and attention spans and so we must give it every possible opportunity.
Two test players, a batsman and a bowler which was perfect really, played the game and both were happy with the way the pink ball behaved. It helps that the batsman in question, Wriddhiman Saha, is also India’s keeper at the moment. Mohd Shami seemed to enjoy bowling with it because it swung a fair bit, apparently more than the red ball does, and bowlers can do with whatever assistance they can get! The concern was that it would get discoloured and certainly the photographs we saw seemed to suggest it held up well.
There are a couple of sterner tests ahead for the pink ball. Kolkata at this time of the year doesn’t have dew so that was one issue that wasn’t addressed. And we need to see how the ball fares on an abrasive surface though I would like to believe that most Indian pitches are inherently abrasive! But the fact that the ball didn’t need to be changed for seventy five overs is a welcome sign.
I was at the press conference before the game started in Kolkata and Star Sports had assembled a group of experts to talk about it and it was revealing to see the mindset of Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman and Dean Jones. Ganguly had played with the pink ball and he thought that if anything, it was easier to sight. But both he and VVS Laxman were adamant that the challenges in the path, different conditions at one stage of the innings and then quite remarkably different at another stage, were part of what makes Test cricket such a compelling experience. Almost everything in our game has evolved from helmets and bats to reverse swing to the doosra to the many hued lap shots. We need to begin somewhere and maybe the time to begin is now.
Duleep bigger test
The Duleep Trophy later in the year will be a bigger test because it will be played across different grounds and not all of them would perhaps be tended to the way Eden Gardens is. By the end of September we should have a very good idea if it is indeed possible and that is why an October test against New Zealand would have been nice. It could well be that the last test in March against Australia could be the debut because both countries seem committed to playing day/night tests.
Just as cricket had no choice but to go with T20, I will not be surprised if, in a couple of years, we see day/night cricket everywhere. The game has to evolve and the longer we push it, the more difficult we make it for a new generation to relate to it. I fear sometimes that those that profess to love it actually end up imprisoning it. By doing so, we ensure that test cricket will remain relevant only to a generation getting older. If we want test cricket to flourish twenty years from now, we have to do what it takes to reach out to a new generation that has been told how great it is, have been educated about the nuances that make it special, but who have no compelling reason to see it.
Currently, the only way ahead is to play it under lights. Other ideas might emerge, hopefully not with over limits, but at the moment, there isn’t another that holds as much promise.