Indian cricket will finally enter the unexplored terrain of the pink ball revolution and embrace the game after initial reluctance when Virat Kohli and Co. lock horns with Bangladesh in their maiden Day/Night Test starting in Kolkata on Friday (November 22).
India’s leap of faith in the pink ball arena came from a new BCCI regime altogether under maverick former captain Sourav Ganguly, a good seven years after the International Cricket Council approved the format to revive interest in Tests in 2012.
Ahead of the start of Bangladesh’s tour of India, Ganguly was able to convince the visitors to agree for a game of this format.
So far, 11 Day/Night Tests have been played worldwide since Australia set the ball rolling against their Trans-Tasmanian rivals New Zealand four years ago in Adelaide. Australia had proposed a Day/Night Test at the same venue against India last year but the wary tourists didn’t agree to the proposal.
The idea of bringing this format in India was a no go until Ganguly stepped into the picture within a week of taking charge of the BCCI.
The problem as thought earlier was that the SG pink ball will make it difficult for the players to sight it after sunset and will add to the dew factor which players believe aggravates the bowler’s problems.
But Ganguly found Kohli on the same page and the current Indian captain took just “three seconds” to agree to the Board Presidents’ idea.
So far, the build-up to the Test has been smooth. A sellout crowd for the first four days has been managed, something that has been the primary goal of playing the traditional format under lights.
Amid all the hype, there is also the small matter of India bracing up for a 12th successive home series victory.
The challenge for the players would be when the dew comes in to play after the sun sets early and it remains to be seen how both the teams and the groundsmen cope with the pink ball.
The Cricket Association of Bengal has made all efforts to turn the match into a carnival for fans with several gimmicks. So, there are pink-ball mascots, Army paratroopers to deliver the match ball and a galaxy of sports and political dignitaries, including Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, are also expected at the venue.
The menacing pace attack of Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav wrapped up the Indore Test inside three days with an innings and 130 runs victory — the 10th innings win for India under Kohli’s captaincy.
The pace attack along with the blazing form of the new-found opening duo — Rohit Sharma and Mayank Agarwal — has been the story of the season in Indian cricket.
The pacers took 14 wickets in Indore and none of them look like they would need the additional movement or help from the pink ball to wreak havoc at the Eden Gardens.
Already at the top of the World Test Championship standings, India would look to consolidate their position after another series victory.
While a handful of Indian players have the pink-ball experience, having played three domestic seasons of Duleep Trophy under lights, the Bangladeshi squad would be facing the challenge for the first time.
Bangladesh have struggled in batting and only Mushfiqur Rahim posted a 50-plus score in the Indore Test.
Having been handed the captaincy after Shakib Al Hasan’s suspension for failure to report corrupt approaches, Mominul Haque is struggling to handle the pressure, made worse by his batsmen’s continuing flop-show.
In such a gloomy scenario, the skipper may find some inspiration from his pacers, especially Abu Jayed, who impressed in the Indore Test.
India: Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddiman Saha (wk),Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Rishabh Pant, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Hanuma Vihari, Kuldeep Yadav and Shubman Gill.
Bangladesh: Mominul Haque (c), Liton Das (wk), Mehidy Hasan, Nayeem Hasan, Al-Amin Hossain, Ebadot Hossain, Mossadek Hossain, Shadman Islam, Taijul Islam, Abu Jayed, Imrul Kayes, Mahmudullah, Mohammad Mithun, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mustafizur Rahman.
Match starts: 1 pm IST.
(With inputs from agencies)