It may have taken just 3 seconds – as per BCCI president Sourav Ganguly – for Virat Kohli to give his nod for India’s first ever pink ball Test, but the Indian captain is certain that the foundation of Test cricket cannot only be based only on Day/Night affairs. “This can be a one-off thing. It should not, in my opinion, become a regular scenario,” said Virat Kohli, a day before the historic pink ball Test under lights against Bangladesh at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata.
The growing concerns over limited turnout in Test matches across the country prompted Ganguly to make his first big move of announcing a Day/Night Test within weeks after taking over BCCI’s 39th president. The decision has resulted in a straight surge in ticket sale as CAB confirmed of a full house in the first three days of the Test match. Kohli, however, was of the opinion that tinkering the basic idea of Test cricket just to make it entertaining, should not define its future.
“You can bring excitement into Test cricket but you can’t purely make Test cricket based on just entertainment. The entertainment of Test cricket lies in a batsman trying to survive a session, a bowler trying to set up a batsman. If people don’t want to respond to that, too bad. If I don’t like Test cricket, you can’t push me to like it. Those who enjoy 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,” said Kohli.
In last 4 years, 11 Day/Night Tests have taken place in Austarlia, England, South Africa and UAE but the path for the purest form of cricket to be played under lights hasn’t been that smooth. It took 138 years for two nations to agree to play a Day/Night Test when Australia and New Zealand put their hands up for the Adelaide in 2015. To put that into perspective, the first Day/Night ODI was played only 8 years after the first ODI in 1971.
Cricket Australia had tried the concept of playing first-class under lights in a Sheffield Shield game back in 1996 but the result wasn’t conclusive to propose it to ICC. It took 29 years since then to host a Day/Night Test. For India, the transition took longer. It was only in 2016 that the pink ball made its first appearance in India in a CAB Super League final at this very venue. The experiment was taken forward to three seasons of Duleep Trophy. But international cricket was still not in the farsight. Even till last month, India were the only team along with Bangladesh to have not embraced Day/Night Tests. BCCI, in fact, had declined Cricket Australia’s proposal of playing the second Test match under lights in Adelaide during their last tour down under in 2018-19.
“It had to happen eventually. The thing was to experience the pink ball test in our own conditions first so you get a hang of how the ball behaves. Then eventually going on and playing pink ball Test anywhere in the world,” added Kohli.
Kohli also echoed Rahul Dravid’s view of having a proper calendar along with the schedule well in advance to allow people to plan for a particular match like in the case of a Boxing Day Test in Australia.. “I think Rahul bhai mentioned this recently if you have a Test calendar where the series and tests are fixed it will bring a lot more system and sync into people planning their calendars as well. It can’t be random saying you never know when a Test match is going to arrive.”
Virat Kohli and Rahul Dravid were not only ones raising concerns over making Day/Night Tests a regular affair. Bangladesh spin-bowling consultant Daniel Vettori too highlighted that the schedule shouldn’t be overloaded with pink ball Tests. “It will certainly be a big part of Test cricket but certainly it has to be balanced out with day cricket,” Vettori said.
BCCI’s big role
Praising BCCI for always making Test cricket a priority, Kohli highlighted the role of cricket boards in reviving Test cricket.
“From BCCI point of view, the only discussion we have had over the last 2-3 years is how can we keep Test cricket right up there. If you look at how exciting as a team we have been in the last 2-3 years, that tells you in the way people come and watch us play as well. I think it’s a partnership of the board and the players moving in one direction together.
India’s central contract system, which gives special importance to players who only Test cricket, can be a possible way of encouraging more cricketers to the longest format believed Kohli.
“Our main goal was to tell the Test players, you guys are the most important as the other formats are taken care of anyway. You have so many people coming up and playing white ball cricket. But test specialists are difficult to find. Only someone who has gone through the grind in first-class cricket for 5-6 years and still continuing to do so are the ones who eventually make it,” said Kohli.