India vs Bangladesh 2nd Test: Pink ball dominates talk as India looks to sweep series
Five Indian players have no experience with the pink ball in a match situation as they gear up to take Bangladesh in the first ever day-night Test in India. After thumping Bangladesh at Indore in a domineering performance across departments, India is more worried about the conditions and the pink ball than their opponents as Kolkata beckons.
Even before the Indore Test, India had started their pink ball preparations, the sign of a team that is confident about their strengths and weakness in familiar conditions. From Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane to Umesh Yadav and Ravichandran Ashwin, a few players are yet to experience the pink ball first-hand in a match situation. But having put in the hours in the nets, each of them have formed an opinion of the ball and what to expect from it at the Eden Gardens.
Meanwhile, everything has been quiet from the Bangladesh camp. They coped a proper hiding at Indore with their batting and bowling group, in particular the spinners, coming apart rather unceremoniously. Mominul Haque’s captaincy initiation also did not go as expected.
The pink ball only compounds Bangladesh’s woes. They, like India, are yet to play a day-night Test match and given how the pacers have historically thrived with the pink ball, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami should give Bangladesh batsmen a few nightmares.
What to expect from the pink ball
The major difference between a red ball and the pink ball is that while the former is greased on the outer surface, the latter has pigment applied to the leather to make it pink. Initial feedback from the pink ball was that it would lose its lustre fast, hence making visibility an issue. With the black seam replacing the white and pitches covered with more grass than usual to delay the wear and tear of the ball, this has been slowly phased out. Not without confusion, though. In the first ever day-night Test between Australia and New Zealand at Auckland, the pitch had 11mm of grass. For the upcoming Eden Test, the curator has said that there would be 6mm of grass left on the surface. This is 2mm higher than the usual 4mm at Eden Gardens.
While the pitch and the ball itself have dominated the discussions, the playing conditions also pose a concern with Kolkata, in the eastern half of India, having early sunsets in winter. Bangladesh’s spin bowling consultant and former International cricketer, Daniel Vettori, has raised concerns about the twilight hours of the Eden Test.
“The challenge will be how much of the Test is played under lights. Obviously, the sun sets quite early here. I think 4:30 pm. That will be the time we will see the pink ball come into play,” the former New Zealand captain said.
Twilight hours have seen the pink ball behave weirdly in the past with players stressing that batting late in the day is a huge problem.
India are at that stage in their Test cricket journey where they can experiment with their team, practice with the pink ball on the eve of a red ball Test and still win the actual Test by a whopping margin. That said, they have been reluctant to stray away from their preferred set of players. However, with the pink ball aiding wrist spin in the past, there might be a temptation to bring Kuldeep Yadav into the team at the expense of Ravindra Jadeja who did not bowl much at Indore. Jadeja’s batting, though, has improved by leaps and bounds and Kohli considers him a vital part of the setup. So it remains a rather bleak possibility at the moment. The rest of the line-up is unlikely to be tinkered with.
Bangladesh was least convincing at Indore but a few positives included Mushfiqur Rahim’s decent form and Abu Jayed’s potency. The fast bowler, known for his ability to swing the ball, showed good skills and will continue to lead the attack. Mustafizur Rahman, dropped for the last Test, could return to the starting XI given his experience and how he cuts through the ball. Taijul Islam had an off Test at Indore and although he is considered their first-choice spinner, Mehidy Hasan, with his batting an added plus, could be the lone spinner in the side. Rahim could move up to no 4 in the line-up to don more responsibility now that he isn’t the keeper anymore. We could see Mohammad Mithun being swapped out for Mossadek Hossain to give Mominul an additional spin option too.
Abu Jayed: Purely based on his overseas record and the fact that he troubled India’s famed top-order at Indore, Abu Jayed is a key player for Bangladesh in this Test. The pink ball moves around a lot more than the red one and Jayed, picked in the World Cup team with zero ODIs to his name for his ability to move the ball around, should be Bangladesh’s bankable star at Eden.
Virat Kohli: Sure, we know Virat Kohli is a key player in any game and any format. But the Indian skipper has never played with the pink ball before. That, though, isn’t a problem for someone like Kohli who is ever-willing to fine-tune his game and push it in the right direction. But with the ball moving around more, Kohli’s technique could be under scrutiny. With critics more than ready to pull him down, Kohli will be determined about giving them nothing but positives from Kolkata