Duleep Trophy | Pink Ball in focus in the battle of equals

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© Getty Images

Duleep Trophy | Pink Ball in focus in the battle of equals

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Bastab K Parida


As Pre-Socratic Philosopher Heraclitus once said, Change is the only constant in life. The World of Sport is not stranger to the maxim as it constantly leaps and lurches towards new horizons. In Cricket, the good ol' White-clothed format has made way for the three-hour cricketing extravaganza with all the gilt and glamor. Time has changed, and so have we.

However, Test cricket has held its ground despite the birth of the T20 format. It is down but not out yet. History was created when the West Indian first-class team Guyana drew a game against the Daren Ganga-led Trinidad and Tobago in the 2009-10 season with a pink ball under floodlights. Several experiments have been done since then by several countries, and finally late last year, Australia played New Zealand in a day-night Pink ball Test match at the Adelaide Oval to signal a new era for the oldest version of the sport.

In India, Eden Gardens hosted the first pink ball game in the CAB Super League Final in which Mohun Bagan got the better of Bhowanipore by 296 runs. Notwithstanding the experiment in that club game, a first-class game is the perfect opportunity to test the pros and cons of the Pink ball in India. With the BCCI looking to host a day-night Test match sooner than later, Duleep Trophy, which was scrapped last year due to the busy international calendar, will make a come-back thanks to the pink ball experiment.

The tournament will comprise three teams, and on August 23, a Yuvraj Singh-led India Red will lock horns with India Green, led by another mercurial left-hander Suresh Raina at the Greater Noida Stadium. Completing the triad will be Team Blue led by Gautam Gambhir.

Only for the second time in its 55 years of history, Duleep Trophy will not be played between the geographic belts of India. The forced death of the Zonal tournament has created a lot of furore among the average performers, but on a wider range, the new format would provide the India wannabes a chance to aim for a spot in the national team as well.

Currently, the Indian team is on the tour of West Indies, and the India A team is in Australia for the quadrangular tournament making the major first choice players unavailable for the Trophy. But with a mix of youth and experience, all the three teams are evenly poised to provide a thrill-a-minute contest under lights.

 © Getty Images

For the first game, both the Green and Red teams were evenly placed when the squads were declared. But, Green has lost its two premier players owing to national duty - Jasprit Bumrah is a part of the Indian team which will play West Indies in a two-match T20I series in Florida on 27th and 28th of this month, while Murali Vijay is playing the fourth Test of the India-West Indies series and is expected to join only the second match against Blue. However, Green does no­t have any major selection issues as they have to pick only 11 out of 13 players unless any replacements would be announced by the BCCI.

Suresh Raina is expected to lead the lower middle order, whereas Robbin Utthapa will provide solidity as an opener. The unavailability of Murali Vijay means Parthiv Patel can open the innings for them. India Green also have the cushion of the wily old horse - Harbhajan Singh to tackle the opposition.

On the other side, boasting of a strong batting core and a more-than-capable bowling unit, Red looks the stronger of the two. But the selection of Nathu Singh and Murugan Ashwin has attracted a few eye-balls. Nathu has taken only four wickets from his last five first-class matches after his eight-wicket debut against Delhi in last year's Ranji Trophy. Legspinner Murugan Ashwin who has only a single wicket to his name from three Ranji Trophy matches, doesn’t inspire any confidence either. However, Red would want to look at the scenario and ensure they get the best out of the resources that they have. Yuvraj Singh is an experienced campaigner and certainly knows how to do it.

The major paraphernalia for the pink ball game is an even cover of grass on the pitch in a bid to protect the colour of the pink ball. A bumpy outfield can take a toll on the ball and make it scuffed up. However, a thick grass cover doesn’t take the shine off the ball away that easily which means the ball won’t reverse and barely turn. If that would be the case, players need to brush up their skills and prepare accordingly. The dew factor also will come into play when the extravaganza kick-starts.

Familiarity is not the alpha of this contest, rather adaptability is. The team that can adapt to the situations better and sooner will dictate the course of the contest. The battle of two old warhorses, Raina and Yuvraj, should make for fascinating viewing at the Greater Noida Stadium on Tuesday.

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