Curators talk grass, pitch for pink-ball Test

Daljit Singh says grass cover is a must, Eden Gardens curator Sujan Mukherjee feels dew will not be a problem in the day-night Test.

From left: India head coach Ravi Shastri and bowling coach Bharat Arun with Daljit Singh ahead of the Test against West Indies in 2018.   -  FILE PHOTO/ VIVEK BENDRE

 

A day-night Test at the Eden Gardens looked like a distant dream until a few months ago. With the Indian cricketers not ready to explore the new option, there was no question of Team India featuring in a pink-ball fixture. But the times have changed with Sourav Ganguly at the helm of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). India is set to make its day-night Test debut at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on November 22.

Before the pink ball gets rolling, there are a few unanswered questions on the playing conditions with dew being a factor. This will be the 12th day-night Test overall and perhaps, for the first time, it will be held at the onset of winter.

In eastern India, the winter sets in early and by the third week of November, the temperature dips, making way for heavy dew. The ball gets heavy, slippery and life becomes challenging for the bowlers in such conditions.

Former BCCI chief curator, Daljit Singh, believes that it is important to leave a greater amount of grass on the pitch for the pink-ball Test. “When Adelaide hosted the first-ever pink-ball fixture in 2015, they had a 11mm grass cover. That’s unheard of in India. But here too, we need to keep bigger grass content so that the ball doesn’t become dirty easily,” Daljit told Sportstar.

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In 2017, the Duleep Trophy matches were played under lights and pink balls were used. While it was played in August-September, Daljit and his men had kept a grass cover of 6mm and that was enough to dish out good wickets.

“It is important to have tall grasses and also you need to culture them. And this takes time. It won’t happen overnight. The preparation must start from tomorrow itself,” Daljit said, pointing out that not much time is left. “It’s not even a month. So, the process has to start fast…”

Daljit is also concerned with the outfield. “The thicker the grass, more the dew. So, the outfield grass has to be pruned and mowed from time to time. It cannot be thick. The curators need to ensure that the grass is low on the outfield. That’s a must,” he said.

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Though Daljit has retired, he plans to speak to his former colleagues Sujan Mukherjee (Eden curator) and Ashish Bhowmick  about the preparation of wickets. “It is a bold step taken by Sourav. He is not afraid of trying out new things and it will be good for the game. I will speak to my old colleagues and guide them as and when required.”

‘Dew not a threat’

Cricket Association of Bengal secretary Avishek Dalmiya said they will seek BCCI clearance for a 1 pm or 1.30 pm start keeping the dew factor in mind. The board is likely to consult the broadcasters before a final decision on the timings.

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Mukherjee feels dew will not be a threat. “We played the CAB Super League final with the pink ball in 2016 and there was no problem. The day’s play will end by 8-8.30 pm, so I don’t see dew making life difficult for the players.

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“In this part of the world, the dew starts around 7-7.30 and continues throughout the night. There will definitely be dew but the match timings will ensure it doesn’t tamper with the action for long,” he said.

For Mukherjee, it is still early days to discuss the nature of the wicket and the grass cover. “I don’t see a big change. I will assess the weather, dew and keeping all factors in mind, the wicket will be decided. I can’t say about the size of the grass but it is usually around 4.5 to 5 mm. The players are well-versed with their craft, so the day-night Test will not be too hard to play. Usually, a match goes on till about 5 pm.”