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Thursday, November 21, 2019

Cricket—Balls Over The Years As Kolkata Gets Ready For The Pink Test!


While the game of cricket originated in England in the late 16th century and developed globally from the 19th century the red ball has been used traditionally—since at least the early 19th century. International cricket matches have been played since 1844 and Test Cricket from 1877. The color change in cricket began only towards the late 20th century; however, the traditional red ball has continued to be used till today—in test and first-class cricket matches or completions. With the changes in the format of the game the colors of the ball started changing along with the traditional white dress of the cricketers on the field becoming colored.

The ‘red’ became ‘white’ in 1977 when Karry Packer introduced World Series Cricket (WSC) in Australia—as a breakaway ‘commercial’ league. It also included colored clothing for different players from different teams, use of floodlights and white balls. The erstwhile ‘day’ one-day international (ODI) matches became day-night, and it was the visibility or sighting of the ball in the night that brought in the white ball which offers better vision for the batsman  and it is supposedly batter-friendly with less swing and seam than the red ball. The first ICC Cricket World Cup was played in 1975, but the real craze for the limited-overs one-day format began only after the WSC. Thanks to its ‘commercial’ success the white ball use became extensively official and nowadays even ‘day’ ODIs are played with the white ball. Problems associated with the white ball are mainly that it gets dirty pretty quick, and therefore sighting under lights becomes difficult. This problem was resolved with the introduction of two news balls per innings from either end.

The first ever experiment with the pink ball happened in England in 2009, and since then it has been used there and in Australia—of course, in a limited way. Soon afterwards, the pink ball was officially recommended for day-night Test matches. The first Pink Test was hosted by Australia against New Zealand in November, 2015 which the former won in three days with the pacers dominating the proceedings. Since then, cricket boards and players have been debating over its use, particularly in India. After Sourav Ganguly took over charge as President of the BCCI, the historic decision to host a Pink Test in India was taken.

So then, the first ever Test cricket match with the pink ball sets off from tomorrow, the 22nd of November, 2019 at the majestic Eden Gardens, Kolkata between India and Bangladesh. Celebrities, political leaders, cricket experts and ex-players from across the globe are expected to take part in large numbers. The players from both the sides have started practicing under the Eden floodlights 3-4 days in advance. The two most excited persons on this venture are obviously—BCCI President Sourav Ganguly and India skipper Virat Kohli.

For the first time ever too, if this is healthy for Test Cricket or not only time can tell, a traditionally-quiet five-day Test match in India has become a tremendously hyped event. Lovers of the game are very curious to witness this historic beginning, and there are reports galore in the City of Joy that tickets for the huge stadium are in great scarcity and that tickets are being sold in the black market at astronomical prices. Numerous cricket fans are coming back utterly disappointed and frustrated after a futile search for tickets at the stadium offices. Complaints are afloat that tickets are being manipulated by cricket mandarins and there are even no proper notifications for online sale of tickets. Well, with the kind of cricket following in India, particularly in Kolkata, this is nothing but natural.

Eden Gardens...Ready!
Interestingly, people are looking for tickets only for the first three day-nights. Bangladesh, at the moment, looks to be down and out after India’s innings win in Indore in the first Test. With Indian pacers, Shami prominently, in top form, the much-touted green pitch at Eden Gardens may prove too much for the visitors without the services of Shakib and Tamim. Like the first pink test in 2015 most expect it to be over in three days, in India’s favor. General curiosity peaks anticipating the possible behavior of the pink ball under lights, during the twilight period, with the wintry dew and the scoring potential of the batsmen. Play is to begin at 1 pm daily with lunch break at 3; second session from 3.40 to 5.40 pm with a break for tea and the last session from 6 to 8 pm. Kolkata becomes dark just after 5 pm at the onset of the winter now.

All set...make way for the Pink...!

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