Pink – the new colour of Test cricket

Australia v New Zealand - 3rd Test: Day 1

Pink is the new Red!

Pristine white flannels, glistening bats, bright yellow stumps and a pink ball — after years of being ‘boring’, cricket went metro-sexual at Adelaide Oval. From today, pink is the new red.

I switched on the TV set with a degree of non-approval. The purist in me didn’t like the idea of tinkering with the Test match format. However, the fan in me looked forward with hope.

It started as expected. The toss happened, the teams got on with it and till about five in the evening nothing extra-ordinary happened. The pink ball looked a touch unfamiliar but it stuck to normalcy — it swung, it bounced, New Zealand had a mini collapse and Nathan Lyon got a couple to turn.

I tried hard to concentrate on the game but for the first time, I was more interested in the light towers rather than the turf. When will the lights come on? — the question kept me on the edge.

They came on and brightness gave way to contrast. The pink pomegranate (can’t call it a cherry anymore, can we?) was still swinging but the grandeur of the occasion multiplied manifolds. It was fantasy cricket in motion and you know what, it was fantastic. The Kiwis faded away in the twilight but the game brightened as the lights went full throttle. 12-wickets fell in the day. Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc bowled beautifully, Peter Siddle got his 200th wicket, Trent Boult and Doug Bracewell looked sharp.

But nothing mattered.

Honestly, I was not even concerned about the state of the game, my eyes were stuck to the pink ball. Starc opened up Santner, I saw the ball. Southee spanked a six over wide long on, I saw the ball. Someone in the stands caught it with a perfect reverse cup, I saw the ball. David Warner’s edge flew to third slip, I saw the ball.

So did the 47,000 present at Adelaide. History was unfolding and we bore witness to it. If you missed it, make a date with Test cricket tomorrow but then, you have missed the first-day-first-show goosebumps.

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Cricket in high definition

There was much apprehension around and every ounce of worry was about the five and a half ounce sphere — will it swing? Will it turn? Will it go out of shape? Will it lose its colour? — questions flooded the minds of every cricket fan.

It swung. It turned. It didn’t go out of shape and it certainly didn’t lose its colour. At the end of Day 1, the pink ball has answered most of the queries. The fate of day-night Tests looks pink because finally, cricket’s got a major facelift. Over the last few decades, the game has seen a lot — the fifty-over entree, the twenty-over dessert, super-subs, powerplays, cheerleaders, DRS. However, a Test match under lights looks like the perfect makeover that can revolutionise the sport.

It can because it’s cricket in high definition. It can because it’s pink. It can because it’s pretty.

The purists may not approve of it but like it or not, it’s here to stay. I am definitely in. BCCI should be rubbing their palms at this opportunity. It’s a blockbuster in the making and that means, serious money. Whatever may be the motivation, BCCI should get a Test match under the lights in India, ASAP.

The last Friday of November will be marked as ‘one-of-those’ days in cricket. India thwarted South Africa’s nine-year long march, Ravichandran Ashwin elevated himself to the next level, teary eyes remembered Phil Hughes but above all, the dusk of 27th November ushered a new dawn for Test cricket.

Kerry Packer was right, after all.

Storm in a dust bowl: Smack the pitch up

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Hashim Amla and Dean Elgar started Day 2. Amla and Elgar ended Day 2. Not out. Only 20-wickets apart.

It spun. It spun square. It bounced, it crawled. It stopped, it skidded.

There are days that move a Test match forward. Day 2 at Nagpur threw the game into a tail-‘spin’. On a rank-turner South Africa failed miserable while India perished, again, thanks to some terrible shot making.

What kind of a horrible pitch is this? – Was the general outcry. It’s a difficult one. Okay, a very difficult one but certainly not a track that warranted scores of 215 all out, 79 all out, 173 all out and 32/2.

Skills are enough to play cricket but to survive a Test match, temperament is the key. Day 2 in Nagpur blatantly showcased the decaying temperament of the so called ‘modern’ batsmen.

The cricket world goes up-in-arms whenever India press the ‘home advantage’ button. However, nobody saw anything wrong in the pitch when India collapsed to 8/4 in Manchester — a track that was meant for the jersey cows from New Zealand, not batsmen.

Collapse on a green top — you aren’t good enough. Dance around like a clueless buffoon on a dust bowl — the wicket is ‘under-prepared’.

Defies logic, doesn’t it?

But before delving in the ‘Oh-what-a-bad-wicket’ war, go through the wickets that fell on Day 2 and analyse what actually crumbled — the pitch or batsmen with fragile temperament?

Elgar was the first to go and for the ‘nth’ time he undid his hard work by playing a horizontal bat shot on a turning track, a cardinal sin. Amla went down too early for the sweep to a delivery that was on the rise. No wonder, it took the back of the bat and looped up.

AB de Villiers did something he never does. Jadeja dug the ball in at pace and AB tried to play against the turn. Only VVS had the skills to do that. No, not even Sachin Tendulkar. Faf du Plessis has been on ‘mindless’ mode this series. Today, he went for the expansive drive over covers with Jadeja doing what he does best — not turning the ball. Through the gate and…BAM!

Dan Vilas can’t play spin so, moving on. Harmer got a peach from Ashwin but he’s not much of a batsman, is he?

JP Duminy looked good. He perhaps, was the best of the lot — got to the pitch of the ball, picked the variations and covered for the turn. However, his dismissal also had nothing to do with the track. Camping on the back foot, he missed the flight, read the length wrong and was a sitting duck.

Before moving on to the Indian batting, let’s applaud the Indian spin trio. Believe it or not, bowling on a ‘tailor-made’ track requires skill. Remember what happened to Vinay Kumar at Perth or Pankaj Singh in England?

The Indian spinners were spot on. Ravichandran Ashwin claimed his 14th five-for in 31 Tests – only a special talent can produce those unreal numbers.

Ravindra Jadeja is like weather. No team has a plan against him because they can’t. He jogs in with his shades on, rolls his arm over and then, things happen. Ask Michael Clarke. Amit Mishra is the supporting cast but the leggie sticks to his role — tosses it up, keeps it on a length and turns a mean googly.

Still, all out for 73? Come on.

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Let’s focus on the Indian batting now. In a refreshing change, the Indian bowling has covered for the batters throughout the series. Keep Murali Vijay aside and this batting line-up is wafer thin.

Shikhar Dhawan is a master of throwing it away. After surviving 78 deliveries, he reverse swept. Read again, he reverse swept. Pujara, uncharacteristically, played inside the line of a straight delivery. He hoped it would turn. It didn’t.

Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane though, need to take a hard look in the mirror. Kohli’s batting has stagnated. While Joe Root, Kane Williamson and Steve Smith have reached the next level, Kohli is stuck into his fantasy world of ‘attacking’ cricket. Today, his shot against Tahir was, for lack of a better word, disgraceful.

Rahane is fast-tracking himself into the ‘Ian Bell’ mould – pretty batsman who plays the wrong shot at the wrong moments. His slip catching is world class but his slip-ups with the willow is concerning. Rohit Sharma is always on social media trial but when wickets tumbled, he held the fort together to stretch the lead past 300. Of course, his temperament still has massive question marks.

There’s no doubt the pitch at Nagpur is at its misbehaving best. It’s not a ‘proper’ wicket but was it impossible to bat on? The social media commentators are intolerant towards the track but maybe it’s time that the modern batsmen took stock of their hard hands, scrambled brains and feet that are stuck in clay.