India to relook day-night Tests after players red-flag pink ball

After the astounding two-day win in the third match of the series against England that saw 30 wickets fall for just 387 runs, the Indian cricket board is having a rethink on hosting day-night Tests based on feedback from Indian players against the pink ball, The Indian Express has learnt.

The team management has conveyed two key drawbacks: visibility of the pink ball, which also skids faster than the red version, making it difficult for batsmen.

A BCCI official told The Indian Express that the feedback is “being taken seriously”. “What the players say is important. We will take a call soon on whether we should host pink-ball Tests in the future,” the official said.

Of the 30 wickets to fall in the Test that was won by India Thursday played at the newly inaugurated Narendra Modi Stadium, 28 were taken by spinners with most of the batsmen dismissed by the straighter ball that skidded on.

After Thursday’s 10-wicket win, a member of the Indian team management told The Indian Express: “The problem when facing the pink ball is that it skids much faster compared to the red ball. Muscle memory makes batsmen believe that the ball will come at a particular speed after pitching, like they are used to when playing with the red ball. But the pink ball comes much faster. This is a major issue. Also, our players are not keen to play Day-Night Tests because the pink ball has too many variables, including difficulty in sighting the ball.”

The game at Motera finished just after the dinner break on the second day, dividing opinion among experts and fans on the quality of the pitch. England made 112 and 81, while India scored 145 before knocking off the 49-run target without losing a wicket.

Later, Indian opener Rohit Sharma, who made 66 and 25 not out, spoke to reporters about how batsmen have to change their approach when playing the pink-ball. “The red ball does not come on so quickly onto the bat. It also has got to do with the conditions in the evening. The temperature goes down a degree or two plus there’s the dew factor as well. But all in all, the pace of the pink ball is slightly quicker than the red ball. It is something that we need to adjust to as quickly as possible and understand what we need to do.”

Left-arm spinner Axar Patel, who took 11 wickets in the game, credited the extra “glare” (lacquer) on the ball for the faster skid. “I feel there is a little more glare on the pink ball because of which the ball was skidding a little more off the wicket, and I got LBW decisions because of that. Maybe because of this difference between the red ball and the pink ball, I was getting the ball to skid more off this pitch,” he said at a press conference.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an India player told The Indian Express: “The pitch was as good as the Chennai track (for the first two Tests). If we had played with the red ball here, the game would have lasted four days.”

The team management, it is learnt, had asked for a turner for the third Test while the norm in day-night games has been to leave grass on the wicket to ensure the ball does not lose colour and lasts. In fact, England went in with only one frontline spinner Jack Leach, while India played three, Ravichandra Ashwin, Washington Sundar and Axar.

India have played three pink-ball Tests so far, winning two and losing the game at Adelaide where they were bowled out for 36 in the second innings. In 2019, when India beat Bangladesh at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, the match finished in the first session of the third day.