“Though the Indian management has ducked away from the offer to turn up in a Day/Night game this time around, if they continue being stubborn about it and refuse to try their hand out over the next few years, then they will once again be called the brash, spoilt kids of world cricket”.
If change is the only constant then the Indian cricket team stands as its bitter rival. After vehemently opposing the adoption of the Umpiring Decision Review System in their home season, the refusal to play the Day/Night Tests when they tour Australia later this year has led to debates and discussions on the Board of Cricket for Control in India’s power and the monopoly that they seem to possess over the game.
However, before the BCCI is attacked, it must be known that according to the ICC Playing Conditions, the visiting team has the opportunity to either agree or disagree when it comes to playing the Pink Ball Test match, and when presented with the chance, the Indian Board dismissed just that. Stating that the Indian team needs at least 18 months to prepare for the newly-introduced concept, Ravi Shastri and the Indian team management were quick in playing down the offer. The Day/Night Test match has become a convention in the Australian Summer since New Zealand played a game in the country in 2015 and Cricket Australia were hopeful of carrying on that tradition this season as well.
James Sutherland, the CA chief executive did not mince words in stating that India’s refusal to play a Day/Night game was purely due to selfish reasons and that their urge to win a Test series in Australia got in the way of promoting the game. With the night sessions in Adelaide witnessing over 30,000 spectators over the years, it is an unspoken truth that the game aids in bringing more spectators to the ground but is it really fair to attack the Indian team to opt out of this?
Firstly, sans David Warner and Steven Smith, India’s primary tormentors when they toured Australia in 2014, the Indian team does have the best ever a chance of emerging on the winning side. Even though they did lose the series in South Africa, they were hardly outplayed and had the match under their control on a number of occasions. Moreover, the remarkable win in the third Test match under unfriendly conditions would have boosted their morale even further and if they can script together a memorable show in England, they would fancy their chances in Australia. Thus, they do not need any unfavourable experiences to thwart just that.
Secondly, the pink ball is known to assist the seam and the swing bowlers more than the normal red ball generally would. In order to protect the shine of the ball, the groundsmen are asked to leave behind more grass on the surface, because a bald track will only wear and tear the ball down even more – thus making it tougher to spot under the floodlights. Not only does this make the batting tougher, the black seam assists the faster bowlers with more moisture and movement and with no pronounced spin on offer in such games, it is probably a wise decision that India has said no to the new trend.
Yes, the move can be debated but would Australia have deliberately agreed to play on wickets in India that helped the spinners more than a wicket normally does? Would they have volunteered to take part in something they have no prior experience in, all the while knowing that the activity would go against their favour? Wouldn’t they have shouted slogans of unfairness if the ICC had invented a sub-plot in the game that assisted the players in the subcontinental conditions? The questions are but rhetorical, to say the least.
With the Australian side already having some of the most dangerous fast bowlers like Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood in their ranks, even playing in day-conditions when the wickets are flatter is a nightmare. Facing them when the conditions assist them to a greater extent, would have been nothing but a shot in the feet – foolish and stupid.
To attack the Indian management for this decision thus is hardly justified. Over the years, the Indians have been made the scapegoat for a number of decisions and have often received a raw-deal from the international media. Be it producing doctored wickets when South Africa visited India (don’t the curators prepare pitches that help the home team when India tour abroad?) or attacking their poor win percentage overseas, the Indian team it can be said, has been criticized more than what has been needed. Australia and England have been equally poor when touring in the last three years, with Australia losing 12 out of the 22 games abroad and England are on a winless 130match streak abroad. Yet, the Indian camp’s flaws and faults have been highlighted, analysed and chastised more than it has been necessary.
Yes, where the Indian team might have failed is in its late initiation into the Pink Ball cricket. Only Cheteshwar Pujara and Murali Vijay have played under the lights and the Cricket Association of Bengal organised just a few Pink ball games before scrapping it altogether. While Australia have been pushing their domestic players to play with the pink ball since 2013, the Indian youngsters have hardly received any motivation from their bosses. Though the Indian management has ducked away from the offer to turn up in a Day/Night game this time around, if they continue being stubborn about it and refuse to try their hand out over the next few years, then they will once again be called the brash, spoilt kids of world cricket – just like they were when they would remain staunch in their approach towards the DRS till a few months ago.