Here’s to a bright, fuchsia-filled state of play

Remember, pink’s short association with cricket prior to Friday’s match has hardly been serious. The first ODI, played under the Big Top of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket – ‘pyajama cricket’ –on November 28, 1978, had Australia in wattle gold...

It’s impossible to say whether Virat Kohli and the rest of India’s Gulabi Gang in White that took to the field at Eden Gardens on Friday afternoon were clad in pink chaddis or not. But despite the buildup around the first ‘pink ball’ Test – that epithet clearly overtaking the fact that this was the first ‘day-night’ Test India was ever playing – it would be reasonable to assume that they were not wearing pink inner-wear, since the whole point of that colour was for the benefit of sight.

That is, to be clearly seen - pink ball by batsmen when the floodlights went up; advertising in pink by spectators both at the ground and in front of TV sets; spectators wearing pink jerseys and get-ups by cameras so as to be noticed by millions, and friends back home….

The Bangladesh first innings being wiped out and their batsmen put to dry even before ‘night’ of the ‘day-night’ Test arrived may give extra credit to pink’s ’pecial pace potency. But the three quacking ducks by the three Ms – (Mohammad) Mithun, Mushf iqur (Rahim) and Mahmudullah Riyad – and the fall of six wickets before lunch (at around 3 pm, was it still lunch?) were more because of witless Bangladeshi batting, and aggressive Indian bowling utilising the (extra?) ‘hardness’ of the (pink) ball.

But let’s go to the morning that showed the pinkness of the day after South African umpire Marais Erasmus passed to Kohli the most phosphorescent ball yet in international cricket - more cherry and cheery than the traditional ‘red’ of Tests, and ‘white’ of ODIs. Who then passed it on to Ishant Sharma to do ‘his thing’, everyone turned their eyes away from the footnotes to the actual text of the game. How will this Orb of Fuschia, teetering to the purple side of pink and gleaming like a teenager in a temple, behave during the least ‘pink’ of all forms of the game: Test cricket?

Remember, pink’s short association with cricket prior to Friday’s match has hardly been serious. The first ODI, played under the Big Top of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket – ‘pyajama cricket’ –on November 28, 1978, had Australia in wattle gold (named after the golden wattle plant that signifies unity in Australia, but ‘canary yellow’ to the rest of us) taking on the West Indies in, er, coral pink. Even the likes of Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Colin Croft and Viv Richards in salmon couldn’t inspire cricketing, never mind sartorial, confidence. The West Indians were roundly beaten – both in game and optics. But back at the Eden on Friday, it was about the pink ball -- how it would fly off during Ishant Sharma’s opening delivery, then the remaining five. In the pit of that buzzing stadium, Ishant charged in, round the wicket, bowling to Bangladesh left-handed opener Shadman Islam. On TV it was easier to follow. But one can be sure that each member of the Eden crowd also thought they followed it – the pinkness peeking out of Sharma’s clenched hand.

Would this new ball bounce unnaturally? Would it stay stubbornly low? Would the ball pick up speed coming up off the pitch and come on too strong on the bat as a solitary lady in pink sitting at a bar would have us suggest? Will the pink ball hit the pads softer? It seemed that everyone had forgotten about the dry, hard first-day Eden pitch and if it would play any role in the state of play.

Ishant’s first ‘pink’ delivery travelling towards Islam’s leg stump was healthily tapped down by the batsman. The first pink ball was delivered and tamed.

History was made. A controlled maiden over followed.

The next over, Imrul Kayes faced India’s other paceman, Umesh Yadav, who had three slips and a gully ready to pluck the pink when and where required. Yes, the ball was coming off the bat quickly – the first-day pitch’s rather than the pink ball’s doing – and Bangladesh got off the mark off the second (pink) ball of the second (pink) over.

Under Eden’s pink scoreboard and pink paan masala advertising across the rafters, we saw the ball move – not in the air as it did during the opening overs in the previous Test in Indore, but off the pitch. The shining SG pink ball was certainly more visible than the ‘red’ as it cut angles -- looking like a glossy, hard hockey ball on HD television – especially in the third over, when Ishant’s ‘off-cutter’ swerved into the batsman’s legside, it’s splendid white seam gleaming in the pink of health under November Kolkata skies.

Yes, the pink ball seemed heavier. (Being told beforehand by experts and players only helped knowing that.) Neither of the opening bowlers seemed to elicit much swing from the new ball in the first couple of overs. The gloss – more than the usual shine on a new ‘red’ ball, owing to the extra layer of pink colouring applied, since dying the leather pink isn’t an option (yet) – seemed to play a role in keeping the in-flight trajectory ‘stable’ (read: unswinging).

But going by India – and Bangladesh – no longer being ‘pink ball’ virgins any more, the cricket ball’s entry into the latest ‘spectral wavelength’ should be accepted, even welcomed, by society. My only query now: Is the Day-Night Test (DNT), as a new addition to the TV dinner, the future of the sport’s long form? Watch this pink space.
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