Indian skipper Virat Kohli said he welcomed the “buzz” around India’s grand day-night Test debut but said that pink-ball matches should not become a regular occurrence.
India begin their pink ball journey against Bangladesh on Friday (22nd November) in Kolkata, with the first four days sold out, contrasting with day-time Tests in India when crowds are often sparse.
“This can be a one-off thing. It should not in my opinion become a regular scenario, because then you are losing out on that nervousness of the first session in the morning,” Kohli said at Eden Gardens.
“The entertainment of Test cricket lies in the fact that the batsman is trying to survive a session and the bowler trying to set a batsman out,” he told reporters.
But he added: “It’s great to create more buzz around Test cricket.”
Kohli believes that loving Test cricket is an organic feeling and not something compulsory.
“If I don’t like Test cricket, you can’t push me into liking it. If someone gets excitement or boost from watching the battle between bat and ball and great session of Test cricket, in my opinion those are the people that should come and watch Test cricket because they understand what’s going on.”
Day-night Tests, aimed at increasing crowds and TV audiences for the longer format, were successfully introduced in 2015 when Australia played New Zealand in Adelaide.
England, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and West Indies have all played at least one day-night Test.
But until now India has kept away, with the Board of Cricket for Control in India last year refusing to play a day-night Test in Adelaide.
“Obviously we wanted to get a feel of pink-ball cricket. Eventually it had to happen,” said Kohli.
India lead the two-match series 1-0 after thrashing Bangladesh in a daylight Test at Indore inside three days -- to largely empty stands.
A striking spectacle is planned for the start of the Test on Friday -- it is also Bangladesh’s pink ball debut -- with Bangladesh prime minister and the local chief minister set to begin proceedings by ringing the stadium bell.
Kohli said the occasion reminded him of the 2016 World Twenty20 clash with arch-rivals Pakistan at Eden Gardens which witnessed a host of big names including current Imran Khan, former cricketer and now Pakistan’s prime minister, in attendance.
The Indian star batsman said he was excited to become part of history but after practising with the pink ball pointed out a few challenges compared to the regular red ball used in day Tests.
“The one thing that surprised me was the fielding sessions. How in the slips the ball hit your hand so hard, it almost felt like a heavy hockey ball,” Kohli said.
“It really felt like that on the hand and it’s definitely because of the extra glaze of the ball. It’s definitely much harder, and it felt a little heavier.”
Kohli also said evening moisture will play a big part in Indian conditions despite the game scheduled to run from 1:00 pm to 8:00 pm (0700 to 1430 GMT).
“I think in India we have one big factor, which is dew, (for) which something will have to (be done),” said Kohli.
“Spoke to the match referee yesterday. It’s something we’ll have to speak about and discuss as we go along in the game. You can’t really predict how much mopping or how much cleaning of the dew is required at which stage.”
Open to day-night Test next year but only if we play a practice match before that game
Kohli meanwhile is open to the idea of a day-night Test in Australia next year provided his team is allocated a practice match, something which wasn’t on the table during the 2017-18 tour Down Under.
Asked if he would be ready to play a day-night Test in Australia during next year’s big tour, Kohli gave a positive reply with a rider.
“Whenever it is held, there should be a practice game before,” Kohli said.
Kohli then said that the Indian team refused to play day-night Test in Adelaide during the 2017-18 tour simply because it was slotted without keeping a tour-match so that the team can get acclimatised.
“Obviously, we wanted to get a feel of pink ball cricket. Eventually, it had to happen. But you can’t just bring those things up before a big tour and suddenly in the schedule, there is a pink ball Test, when we have not even practised with pink ball. We have not played any first class game with the pink ball,” the skipper said.
“It can’t be that sudden,” Kohli said referring to that particular tour.
When asked about his change of mind, Kohli said that they agreed because discussions were happening for a while it wasn’t as if they were told just days prior to a series.
“You can’t just go in two days before and say you’re playing a pink ball Test in a week’s time. We didn’t really think it was logical from that point of view. It needed a bit of preparation. Once you get used to playing it there’s no problem playing at all. You can plan in advance. We just thought it was a spontaneous,” he said about the last time.
Kohli is happy that India is first playing a day-night Test at home.
“This one we have been talking about for a while,” he said.
“Look, the thing was to experience a ‘Pink Ball Test’ in our own conditions as to how the ball behaves. Will there be (more) sideways (lateral) movement? Then eventually going on and playing an important Test series anywhere in the world,” the Indian captain said.
A more compact technique would be necessary to negotiate the pink ball compared to facing the red ball.
“If you have not played with the pink ball it’s going to be challenging through out the game. Solid technique and more compact game required compared to the red ball. And it makes it even more difficult with not having a great visibility or able to pick that colour.”
India’s last series against South Africa witnessed a less than encouraging turn-out and the result was this Test as Sourav Ganguly took the initiative up front after becoming the Board president.
“Yes, it’s great to create more buzz around Test cricket. The first four days here are sold-out, which is amazing for Test cricket.”
“Imagine the boost our bowlers have standing at the mark with some 80,000 (67,000) fans cheering for him. I am expecting very exciting cricket in the first hour because the energy level will be very high. I am sure the fans would enjoy it. It’s a landmark Test and we are lucky to be the first Indian team playing it. It’s a great honour,” he concluded.
Kohli also advocated former India captain and NCA Director Rahul Dravid’s idea of having a proper calendar to revive Tests.
“It would bring a lot more system and a lot more sync into people planning their calendars as well. It can’t be random. If you have centres which are marked an if you have Test calendars, which are marked, people will have a better system as to how we can plan to get into those Tests.
“People are not just going to leave work and come to a Test match if they don’t know what’s going on. They can plan things. I think this can be a one-off thing, it should not be a regular scenario,” he maintained.