Unlike with the red ball, the pace of pink ball goes up when the lights come on, says the India vice-captain
India captain Virat Kohli has often spoken about not losing focus and having that one awful session that loses you a Test. He didn’t mean sessions where the opposition had kept you under pressure for long periods and then reaped the rewards. He meant when India had largely been in control of the game and then given it all up in one quick burst.
The two clearest examples were Durban 2013-14 and Brisbane 2014-15. On both occasions, India had won the toss and looked in control in the first innings. In Durban, they went from 198 for 1 to 199 for 4 – and then eventually bowled out for 334 to lose the Test – against reverse swing. In Brisbane, they scored 400-plus in the first innings, got off to a good start in the second, looked set to save the Test, and then an injury in the nets kickstarted a collapse on the fourth morning to lose them the Test.
Since then, India haven’t really had such standout poor sessions out of nowhere, but the many variables in a day-night Test bring about the possibility of one. Vice-captain – and captain-elect for the last three Tests – Ajinkya Rahane has called for increased focus all the time during the day-night Test because it can be like playing two entirely different innings. If the set batsmen lose their way in the twilight period, it can be extremely difficult for the new batsmen to start an innings, which is a recipe for collapses.
India have played only one day-night Test so far, in India with the SG ball. Rahane did speak, though, from experience of the one first-class game he took part in as build-up to the Adelaide Test. He made an interesting observation that the pace of the ball increases once the lights come on.
“The pace of the red ball stays the same throughout the day,” Rahane said. “With the pink ball, the pace changes completely in those 40-50 minutes. Of course, the new ball moves a little for a while but it gets easy to bat after that. Then the twilight period can be challenging because the pace of the ball increases. Both off the wicket and in the air. If we focus hard during this period, it can get slightly easy again.
“It behaves differently during the day and behaves differently once the lights are on. So that is a challenge. So as a batsman focus will be the key. As long as you can focus and concentrate, communication will be the key among the two batsmen. Batting in twilight, those 40-50 minutes is the key. If you bat well in that period, it becomes really good.”
As David Warner has shown in day-night Tests in Australia, there are periods of cashing in but you have to earn them. Rahane, who likes to start rapidly before settling into an innings, knows that and knows he will have to be more flexible given the time of the day he walks in.
“I feel when you bat at No. 5-6, you have to read the situation and play according to the situation,” he said. “For me it is all about playing with intent, playing what the situation is and what the team demands from me. I visualise that and play accordingly. It is all about having that intent. Intent means not going there and playing all the shots. Intent comes with your defence, your leaving the ball. That positive mindset I feel is really important. It’s not like I decide every time to go out there and play my shots but I think having that intent helps me a lot.”
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo