The new President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) Sourav Ganguly has truly ignited and lit a fire for Test Cricket in India. The first Day-Night Test match to be played in India at one of the most famous cricket venues, Eden Gardens Kolkata, will begin from November 22. This has brought about an interest and excitement, which itself is wonderful for Test cricket.
The old conservative and traditional form of the game, in the fast moving world of today, requires every bit of innovation to get the dwindling crowds back into the stadium. The Day-Night match will give the spectators a better chance to come to watch the game, as not only will some of them be able to see it after a day’s work but also two sessions of the match will be seen in cooler comfort. Most of the grounds in India do not have adequate roof covering and so the heat becomes a major factor, especially while watching the slower format of the game, Test cricket.
One is extremely happy that India, who were reluctant to play a Day-Night Test, have finally accepted to do so. A similar tale of apprehension from India was also seen when the ODI night cricket was being introduced as well as the now most popular cricket format, the T20. India and Indian crowds took to the latter forms
of the limited-overs version, like duck to water and one hopes that the Day-Night Test matches are also followed with the same enthusiasm.
The idea of night cricket is a very progressive one, however, one of the concerns of a spectator is the lack of facilities and comfort in the stadiums in India. The ordeal starts from the very outset when one is enters the stadium. At most venues the lack of parking and the uncaring attitude at the entrance, whether in the queue or through the security check can be the first of ones disappointments. Unlike abroad where one can enter and also exit whenever one desires to, is another no-no where India is concerned.
At most venues in India, if one goes out of the gate, one is not allowed entry again. A ridiculous rule that makes it impossible for one to enter and exit the stadium at will. The seating and seats are another hardship that one has to encounter. A numbered seat has no relevance to the Indian cricket watcher.
An uncomfortable seat is another matter but to get to it and actually sit on it is a challenge not only at the initial stage but even when one needs to go for a stroll or a break during the match. The idea of a clean and hygienic toilet at the stadium is a dream yet to materialize at most Indian venues. The food and snacks apart from the inferior quality are sold at horrendous prices. Water becomes a luxury rather than a necessity. Those good old days of watching cricket, sharing home cooked delicious snacks and meals was what Test cricket was all about during the match. The companionship of the players on the field and the spectators off it was what made Test matches interesting. The Day-Night match may be a novel way of getting spectators to the ground, but comfort, good seating, affordable tickets and food, good treatment and facilities will be the only way to sustain it in the long run.
England and Australia are good examples of how Test cricket can still be an enjoyable viewing sport and India needs to follow their success structure. Indian cricket seems to have taken the plunge into the Day-Night Test match in a state of great euphoria for all concerned. However, this is an untested area that Indian cricket is venturing into and that too at the highest level of the game without adequate knowledge and trial.
There is uncertainty in the most essential ingredient of the game, ‘the cricket ball’. India, two years ago, played a Duleep Trophy final match with the pink ball which did not prove successful. Players were not happy as to how the ball became soft and dirty in our conditions and the ball used then was a tested Australian ‘Kookaburra’. Sighting the ball was an issue and with additional lacquer and shine on the pink ball, the variables in playing conditions were quite a lot during the period of the match. One feels that although Virat Kohli and his team have accepted to play an important Test match, that has a significant impact on the points in the World Test Championship, that India should have played many more matches in domestic cricket before venturing into that area of uncertainty.
The curator, with minimum experience in the preparation of the wicket for such a game, will be as much at sea as the bowlers and the batsmen, who have just a few days to acclimatize themselves. India, are planning to use an ‘SG Ball’, which is a novelty in itself, as it has never been used in a match of any significance. How that pink ball will behave in a five day encounter is anyone’s guess.
India may have felt that with a side that has all the ingredients to counter any conditions, victory will still prevail against a weaker opposition such as Bangladesh. On paper that looks correct but Test cricket has brought many such predictions to its knees. One only hopes that the uncertainties of the game with the added uncertainties of the playing conditions do favor India.
The Day-Night cricket may be a great initiative but till thousands of balls with the right specifications and knowledge of the playing surface and its preparation, are not fully understood and most importantly, the spectators comfort improved, this could remain an event to ponder on for time to come.
[Yajurvindra Singh is a former Test cricketer]