India Swings Wonders with Pink Ball Debut
Team India won the maiden pink ball test series between India and Bangladesh; the match ended in just over two days.
Eden Gardens: an already historic venue, the oldest cricket stadium in Asia, witnessed another historic event on Friday by hosting the first international day and night Test match in India played with a pink ball. This was the second match of the recently concludedTest series between India and Bangladesh but definitely no ordinary match. In fact, the significance of the match could be gagged from the star-studded audience, who came to attend it. Starting with the Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, West Bengal’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee—who rung the Eden bell together to commence the game.
Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Sachin Tendulkar, and Dilip Vengsarkar, were among many of the cricketing legends who were presentat the game on Friday. Stalwarts from other sports such as M.C. Mary Kom, Abhinav Bindra, P.V. Sindhu, Sania Mirza, Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsenwere also on the guest list. From hosting the first World Cup final outside Lords in 1987 to V. V. S. Laxman’s 281 against Australia in 2001 or Rohit Sharma’s 264 off 173 against Sri Lanka in 2014, Eden Gardens has seen it all.
While all earlier forms of Test cricket have been played with the traditional red ball, the pink ball was specially designed to be visible in both daylight and under floodlight conditions. Over the course of the match, the red ball often loses its shine and colour,but the pink balls are easy to pick and spot under floodlights as they lose both their colour and shape comparatively slower than the red ball—owing to the layers of lacquer. Nonetheless, both teams needed rigorous practice with the ball to get used to its form and visibility ahead of the match. All eyes were on the Indian pacers, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma to see how far they could swing the new ball against the Bangladeshi batsmen.
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Virat Kohli emphasized the difficulty of fielding with the SG ball: ‘I was surprised with the fielding sessions—how the ball hit your hand so hard while fielding in the slips. It almost felt like a heavy hockey ball. It felt a little heavy and the throws took a lot more effort than what it is with the red ball’, said the Indian skipper at a pre-match press conference. Incidentally, Kohli had put down the proposal to play a day and night Test match with the pink ball with Australia during their last tour Down Under; whereas in contrast, he took only ‘three seconds’ to agree to play the game at home when proposed by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) President Sourav Ganguly.
For three days, Kolkata stole the mantle of ‘Pink City’ from Jaipur as the Bengal capital bathed in pink to commemorate the first international cricket match in the country played with a pink ball.
Almost all popular and iconic buildings and landmarks, including the Howrah Bridge, the Shaheed Minar, TATA Centre and The 42 among others, were adorned with pink lighting.
Even sweet shops got into the vibe as they introduced special pink ball themed sweets exclusively for the occasion. The enthusiasm was shared by Kolkata’s ‘Dada’ Sourav, as he took to social media to show how his city had adopted the pink fever ahead of the match.
Even the venue itself was adorned in pink, as the Eden Gardens saw decorations in the form of pink lights and pillars wrapped in pink cloths. Even the manual scoreboard and the two screens were renovated and draped in the colour of the ball. BCCI commentators, presenters and even former players were seen wearing pink blazers, shirts or ties to symbolize the phenomenal event. Dignitaries like Sachin Tendulkar and Harbhajan Singh were seen in pink to match up to the theme. The first day also played host to a few special events such as a talk session with Sachin, Laxman, Harbajan and Anil Kumble during lunch break and a lap of the ground of all the former Indian captains of the game during tea.
The match itselfsaw some brilliant performances and figures as the home team decimated the opposition expectedly by an innings and 46 runs. The game was wrapped up within an hour of the third day as Virat and his boys dominated Bangladesh—something quite similar to the first Test at Indore where the neighbours lost by an innings and 130 runs. As Bangladesh struggled to barely make it past the hundred-run mark to reach 106 in the first innings, India declared at 347/9. A seemingly better batting effort from the Bangladeshi side on the second innings could not save them from crashing to another inning defeat as their 195 fell short by 46 runs.
The match saw some brilliant action behind the stumps by Wriddhiman Saha, who took five catches and became the fifth Indian wicketkeeper to affect 100 dismissals in Test cricket. Ishant Sharma recorded five (his first at home after 12 years) and four wickets in the first and second innings while Umesh Yadav took three and five, respectively. Kohli’s knock of 136 took him to the second position in the list of captains with the most Test hundreds, surpassing Ricky Ponting and followed by Graeme Smith. He is the first Indian to record a hundred with a pink ball and is now third on the list of most international hundreds after Ricky Ponting and SachinTendulkar.
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Mushfiqur Rahim’s battling 74 from 96 balls shouldn’t be missed out as a significant performance from the Bangladeshi side.
Although Rahim waged a lone fight for Bangladesh with his valiant effort till day 3, it was evident that Bangladesh never really could pose a threat for India, who recorded their seventh successive Test victory and are now are the only team in the history of Test cricket to claim four successive innings wins with Kohli holding this record as a captain.
Anyone who has been a spectator at the Eden Gardens can narrate the energy and sheer exhilaration of the stadium. The ground had hosted its first Test match in 1934, where India played against England. Since then, it has been witness to some memorable matches, where the crowd has throughout been active participants in the action. The scene was no different for the three days of the pink-ball test at the Mecca of Indian cricket. The crowd poured in in thousands as all tickets for the first three days had been completely sold out. As opposed to the usual Indian blue-jersey, this match saw thousands of spectators showing up in pink to commemorate the occasion. The energetic chant of ‘India… India!’, mobile-phone flashlight ovations, Mexican waves and applaud for the opposition are some of the typical Eden traditions that did not go amiss in this match. Next up, India will be hosting West Indies for a limited over series in December.