Would have India rallied to victory if the 2001 Kolkata Test against Australia were played under lights? The hosts won the match deep into the final session on Day 5, thanks to VVS Laxman’s epic 281 and Rahul Dravid’s 180 in the second innings.
The pink-ball Test between Australia and New Zealand finished inside three days with seamers accounting for 29 scalps. Spinners; Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Santner and Mark Craig bagged just seven between them. With 11mm of grass on the deck, the great Eden Gardens escape might not have been possible.
Dean Jones was even quicker than VVS Laxman to throw the ‘misconception’ out of the window. “He (VVS) would have scored a triple hundred. It depends on quality,” the former Australia batsman said. The ‘very, very special’ player picked it from there: “Yes, it wouldn’t have been humid and I wouldn’t have been dehydrated.” Hearty laughter followed.
The two former cricketers, along with ex-India captain and Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) president Sourav Ganguly, were speaking to a select group of reporters on the heels of a Star Sports-organised talk show at the CAB indoors on Thursday.
Eden will be hosting India’s first-ever multiday pink-ball game from June 18 to 21 — the CAB Super League final between Mohun Bagan and Bhowanipore Club — and the build-up has been impressive. Live TV feed will go across the country.
Kookaburra at the moment has a monopoly over pink ball and it is untested in Indian conditions. The pink Kookaburra didn’t receive a positive feedback from the Australia and New Zealand players at the end of the Adelaide Test with 80 per cent of them saying it wore out a lot more than the red, while 70 per cent felt it was not easy to see at dusk. Ganguly, however, said he didn’t have any problems sighting the ball, when he played a pink-ball game for MCC in Dubai four years ago. “It looked a lot brighter than a red Duke on a dank English morning. It takes time to get used to the changes. People, initially, were not receptive to white-ball cricket as well, but then, they realised that was the best way forward. So I don’t think visibility would be a problem.
“Time has come to market Test cricket in a better way (to bring back the audience). Just think about Virat Kohli facing Jimmy Anderson in a pink-ball Test – the spectacle it will present. Let’s see the problem, address it and try to fix it with the technology we have.”
To be fair though, Kookaburra has been in constant pursuit of making things player-friendly. Jones, who worked as a commentator during the pink-ball Test, elaborated: “They started with the green seam on the ball, changed it to white and then further altered it to black to help cricketers pick the rotation. The leather is now completely dyed in pink (to ensure the colour doesn’t fade quickly). Also, the lights have got massively better now. So it’s just a matter of players getting used to it. But pink-ball is here to stay. It is the new red.”
About 15 days back, Ganguly spoke to Kookaburra people and MCC’s head of cricket John Stephenson and was advised to leave a bit more grass on the pitch and also the whole centre square to ensure the ball holds up longer. Ganguly believes it would last 80 overs. In Adelaide, however, the ball became softer after 50-odd overs.
“Even if it doesn’t last 80 overs, what’s the problem in allowing the second new ball after 60 or 70 overs? Every law of cricket has been changed or manipulated except the length of the pitch. You do it for the fans,” Jones argued.
But extra grass might take the spinners out of equation. There’s every chance that someone like R Ashwin would be adversely affected in a home Test. “Players love challenges. Ashwin’s only concern will be the softness of the ball. But with his variations and skill-set he will find a way. A cricketer always wants more people to watch him play and the pink-ball experiment is being tried out for that only,” Laxman asserted.
The BCCI, too, is keen to hold a pink-ball Test in the coming season but it depends on how things go in the Duleep Trophy in September.