India and Bangladesh will be the latest two teams among the major Test playing nations to jump on to the pink ball bandwagon when they take on each other at the Eden Gardens in the second and final Test of the series.
The premature end to the first Test at Indore afforded both teams a few more practice sessions in twilight and under lights with the pink ball.
A lot of focus is on the balls that will be used at Eden Gardens as this will be the first time ever an SG ball dyed in pink will be used instead of a Kookaburra.
There are a lot of concerns surrounding the ball with the main focus being its durability. The ball needs to last eighty overs, maintaining its gloss throughout, for it to be spotted by the players under artificial light. A white sightscreen will be employed at Eden Gardens for this game.
Players and coaches from both camps have expressed their reservations with sighting the ball in twilight.
India’s wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha spoke about the challenge of spotting the light-coloured ball in a white backdrop after a practice session on Wednesday.
“From my experience I can say that the ball is hard to pick during the twilight time. There is a black backdrop for the white ball so we have to see how different a white backdrop is going to be,” said Saha.
“With the white ball there’s still the feeling that this is a white ball even when it is old. I am not sure how different it is going to be with the pink ball.”
Bangladesh’s spin consultant Daniel Vettori echoed Saha’s assessment of the ball, stating that the keepers and slip fielders could have a hard time behind the stumps.
“I have heard that it [the pink ball] has been a little bit hard to pick at square leg and those areas. I haven’t experienced them myself, that’s what I have heard. That will be interesting to find out if the slips are picking it, gully, the umpires. They say there is a small halo effect that the ball has,” Vettori said.
The pink balls are being manufactured at a factory in Meerut and the standing instruction has been to ensure that they don’t go soft after being used for just 50-60 overs.
The balls that are being used in practice by the players are being collected and marked according to their wear and tear. These could be used in the actual match if the ball in play goes out of shape or loses its gloss, earlier than expected.
The way the ball will behave over the course of the Test match remains a mystery. While some are optimistic of it reversing in the latter part of the game, others claim that it may not be as conducive to reverse swing as it would be for conventional swing.
The pink ball carries an extra coat of lacquer to maintain its shine and this, along with the prominent hand stitched seam should be help the new-ball bowlers a great deal to achieve prodigious swing.
The Eden Gardens has a lush green outfield and the playing surface sports a tinge of grass to cushion the pink ball and reduce the wear and tear.
Reverse swing is generally achieved with an older ball, with one side roughed up while maintaining shine on the other. However, this may not be possible at Kolkata this time around.
Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav, who are India’s chief exponents of reverse swing, might be deprived of one of their major strengths in this match.
However, India’s pace attack have been extremely effective with the new ball, averaging two wickets in the first session of the day in the past ten Tests at home.
For the spinners it is an entirely different challenge.
With at least one session set to be played under lights, dew will come into play and it would be increasingly difficult for the slow bowlers to grip a wet ball.
Former India off-spinner, Harbhajan Singh believes a wrist-spinner would be more effective in this game given the conditions, though a shiny ball on a soft surface isn’t ideal for any kind of spinner. Both teams played two finger spinners in the first Test.
The hosts might be tempted to play Kuldeep Yadav instead of Ravi Ashwin or Ravindra Jadeja at Kolkata.
In the Test that starts on Friday, play will commence in the afternoon at 1:00pm IST.
The second session will begin after a 40-minute lunch interval at 3:40pm IST, and the final session will be played between 6pm to 8pm.
Given the gulf in quality between the two teams that was evident at Indore, all the mystique surrounding this historic Test at Kolkata could act as a leveler. That said, India still go into the Test match as overwhelming favourites.
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