Watch: Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha take stunning diving catches against Bangladesh
From the players’ comments during the match, The Indian Express stitches together the nuances of mastering the pink ball.
It would require more concentration solid technique. The decision-making has to be very precise like the idea of off-stump. The ball was coming on faster from the pitch. It seamed a lot more under lights, swung in the first hour of the second session but seamed throughout the evening till the end of day’s play.
Kohli’s genius mastered the conditions and the pink ball. During his masterful hundred, he stood a couple of feet outside the crease to cover the swing, met the ball right under his eyes and played late. He also played straight. Ninety per cent of his shots were played in front of the wicket. Also, adhering to Sachin Tendulkar’s advice, Kohli batted with more circumspection under lights. On the first day, when he had batted in the evening, Kohli made 59 runs off 93 deliveries. During the first session (afternoon) on the second day, he added 71 more runs to his score off 94 balls.
Cheteshwar Pujara and Rahane scored half-centuries for India. Both waited for the ball to come to the bat rather than trying to reach for the ball. Because of the extra coat of lacquer, the pink-ball’s travel-speed off the pitch and off the bat was faster. Pujara actually came on the back-end of the ‘twilight zone’ on the first day. He bided his time and waited for dew to arrive before opening up. The three Indian batsmen, particularly Kohli, set the batting template for pink-ball cricket under lights.
The Bangladesh batsmen, on the contrary, served up the examples of what not to do against the pink ball. Their captain, Mominul, who bagged a pair, was a case in point. In the first innings against an Umesh Yadav delivery that angled in, he played half-cock and pushed hard at the ball, getting a thick outside edge in the process. In the second , he just hung his bat to an Ishant outswinger to be out caught behind. Like his team mates, Mominul’s footwork was tentative. Of course Bangladesh batters were up against a world-class pace attack, but they hardly got their basics right. Batsmen have very little margin for error in pink-ball cricket.
The pink ball was very different to the red ball. When we started bowling at normal lengths, the ball wasn’t swinging that much. We then figured out the length.”
For the first 20 minutes of the match, swing was conspicuous by its absence. Then suddenly, the Indian pace trio started to make the ball talk. Ishant, Umesh and Mohammed Shami adjusted their length and started to bowl fuller, and the pink ball began to move prodigiously. That the Bangladesh batsmen stay rooted at the crease, uncertain against 140kph-plus pace, made the job easier for the Indian quicks. Shami bowled some excellent bouncers to keep the batsmen guessing. Bangladesh bowlers, on the other hand, didn’t get any leeway from the Indian batters. They aimed good length. But adjustments made by Kohli and company upset their plans. As the India captain stood two feet outside the popping crease, he managed to convert some good length stuff to over-pitched deliveries. They also didn’t have the pace.
I thought light and pink-ball had a role to play (batsmen getting hit). As a batsman, it’s not easy to pick the short ball especially. The pace our fast bowlers have, it’s not easy.”
Liton Das and Nayeem retired hurt of the game on the first day. Both were hit on the helmet by bouncers from Shami and subsequently failed the concussion test.
On the second day, as Bangladesh came out for their second innings, they nearly had another concussion victim. Ishant Sharma’s bouncer had thudded into Mohammad Mithun’s helmet grille. Mithun looked shaken. But after on-field treatment he carried on. During the final session of the day’s play, Mushfiqur Rahim, the most assured of the Bangladesh batsman, was hit by an Umesh bouncer. All of them took their eye off the ball. But with the pink ball rearing off a length, it wasn’t easy, especially under lights against darker background. India, too, could have faced the problem against a stronger bowling attack.
You have a twilight period when the light changes, as it goes from very bright sunshine to artificial light. That period is more challenging for the batsmen to pick the ball. I would expect a similar type of challenge for the umpires as well.”
Bangladesh’s collapse in the first session on the first day meant they didn’t have much batting left in the twilight period. Still, they lost four wickets for 33 runs in the second session. India, too, didn’t have it easy, as they lost their openers for 43 runs. As dusk melted into evening and floodlights completely took over, Pujara and Kohli put on 94 runs for the third wicket.
In the first session on the second day, with the sun out, India scored 115 runs for the loss of Rahane’s wicket. Post-lunch, they lost five wickets for 58 runs in 13.4 overs. And after the hosts declared, Bangladesh were 7/2 in five overs before tea.
“The difference is the ball. Kookaburra, now SG ball. Conditions-wise, twilight time will be challenging especially picking the ball. We have to adjust. It’s challenging (for the ‘keepers). If it’s challenging for slips, it’s for me as well. The ball wobbles when our pacers bowl. But I have to accept the challenges.”
Wriddhiman Saha’s ‘keeping in the pink-ball was a work of art. As he had predicted pre-match, the ball wobbled a lot at high speed, especially when it travelled behind the stumps. Also, the Eden pitch was a bit two-paced, which made the job more difficult for the ‘keeper and slip fielders.
Saha made light of the stiff challenge. His catch to dismiss Mahmudullah attested his brilliance. Ishant Sharma had bowled an away-goer from wide of the crease and the ball came in with the angle before leaving the batsman. Mahmudullah poked at it and Saha took a blinder, diving full-length in front of the first slip. The ball was also dying on him. It was a sensational grab.
A lesser keeper might have shifted the weight to his left leg, as the ball came in with the angle. Saha’s balance was perfect. He was watching the ball till the last minute. The 35-year-old had just two practice sessions with the pink ball before the Eden Test. He had recused himself from the net sessions at Indore and returned to Kolkata after the first Test due to personal reasons.
But his gifted technique allowed him to gauge the behaviour of the pink ball almost to perfection. His ‘keeping showed that with the pink ball, it was important not to commit early. Also that a ‘keeper needs to keep his eye on the ball till the last moment.