Fielding, rather than batting, could be the biggest challenge faced with the pink ball, according to Virat Kohli. The India captain spoke about adjusting to how quickly the ball travelled, and getting used to its feel on the eve of India’s first day-night Test, at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
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“Catching the ball, we felt like how you feel like with the white ball in the afternoon,” Kohli said of India’s fielding session on Thursday. “You don’t know how far the ball is and then it hits your hand very quickly. In the slips, the ball hits your hand so hard it almost felt like a heavy hockey ball, or those synthetic balls we’ve played with when we were younger. It really felt like that on the hand, and it’s definitely because of the extra glaze of the ball.
“It’s definitely much harder, and it felt a little heavier. Obviously, it can’t be a difference of weight, but for some reason it felt heavier. Even the throws took a lot more effort than the red ball to reach the keeper. And again, the dip perception was very difficult when the ball went up in the air. During the day, high catches will be very difficult. We had to watch the balls straight into our palms more often than not. With red ball and white ball, you catch with the idea of how fast the ball is coming down, but this time if you don’t look down at the ball in your palms, it’s gone. So, I think the fielding session for me was far more challenging than batting. People are going to be surprised by how challenging fielding with this ball can be.”
As for batting, Kohli said earlier practice sessions had helped tune up the batsmen, and the ploy against the pink ball was merely to keep things tight.
“I think in general, if you haven’t played with the pink ball before, it’s going to be challenging throughout the game,” Kohli said. “It’ll require more concentration, more solid technique. A more compact game compared to the red ball, purely because anyway in the longer format, the ball does a lot more than the white ball. Add not having great visibility or the ability to pick that colour, and it makes it even more difficult. As you can imagine, decision-making will have to be very precise. Your idea of off stump… I think that’s going to be the most crucial thing. Because even yesterday when we practiced, we felt that the ball could be closer to you but it’s not actually that close to the off stump. So I think that channel, one will have to be careful.
“Batting is something we were focussing on. As a batsman, invariably you end up thinking a lot more about cutting down those errors when you’re playing with a different coloured ball. As batsmen, we were in the mindset of solidifying our games and our techniques. It’s going be a challenge, it’s going to be something which should excite everyone. Sometimes you need to change the template and be excited for new things and new challenges that you’re going to try out. I think we’ll have to be very precise and our skills will be tested.”
Kohli also said that India were particularly excited about playing in front of a packed Eden Gardens and described their first pink-ball Test as a “landmark occasion”.
“It’s a nice occasion. We were already excited about this Test, like I said, it’s a challenge for us,” he said. “I think before this, we had this much excitement and buzz in Eden when we played against Pakistan in the T20 World Cup. Even then there had been big names and there was a felicitation ceremony and there was a packed stadium. So, I think that type it’ll be that kind of atmosphere. It can be daunting or intimidating, but it’s also very exciting.
“When a batsman goes out, he’ll have a lot of support. When a bowler is standing at his mark and 80,000 people are cheering for him with the new ball, which is not easy to play with, he will be boosted. The first session, the first hour, I think will be very exciting, because the energy will be high. And the people will enjoy it a lot. So, obviously this is a landmark occasion and like I said before, we’re lucky that we’re starting this new trend. It’s a matter of honour.”