Kolkata: The extra buzz around the third Test between India and England, with the series nicely poised at 1-1, is quite understandable.
Motera Stadium, hitherto known for it’s red-soiled placid wicket where Sunil Gavaskar became the first batsman to reach 10,000 Test runs, now boasts of the highest capacity among world’s cricket stadia at 110,000 - though COVID-19 protocols will allow only 50% attendance this time.
This is only the second pink ball Test in India - though the first one against a quality opposition - given the fact the hosts had won the ‘historic’ first one in little over two days against Bangladesh at the Eden Gardens in November, 2019.
However, captain Virat Kohli is not willing to be distracted by any such hype, rather focusing on a recipe which would guard the team against any kind of hiccups which can see the recurrence of a ‘36 all out’ kind of scenario.
While the wicket is likely to assist the spinners once again, the pink ball is expected to do more in the post-lunch and evening sessions - while its manufacturers are apprehensive of the ball losing it’s colour quickly on the bald strip of Ahmedabad.
Kohli, who scored his last Test century at the day-night Test 15 months back where India won by an innings and 46 runs, wants his team to apply the lessons from that match in Kolkata against Joe Root’s men.
“Last time we experienced that the first session is probably the nicest to bat, when the sun is out and the ball doesn’t do much,” Kohli told a video conference. “But when it starts to get dark, especially during that twilight, it gets very tricky. The light changes and it’s difficult to sight the ball.
“And then under the lights, it’s like playing the first session in the morning in a normal Test match. The ball does tend to swing a lot.
“So I think it’s a reversal of roles and something that you need to adjust to quite quickly as a batsman.”
Every batsman, however set he might be, must “start from scratch” in the evening, he said.
The morning session of a normal Test match is often the best time for a fast bowler, but Kohli recalled the Kolkata contest and said conditions would favour the quicks more in the evening.
“I think the same kind of template will be useful in this game as well, and these are the few differences from a normal Test match scenario,” he said.
India triumphed by 317 runs on a turning track in Chennai to level the four-Test series but Kohli expects swing bowlers to have a greater say in Ahmedabad. ‘‘The pink ball does tend to swing a lot more than the normal red ball,” he said.
“Yes spin will come into play for sure, but I don’t think the new ball and the fast bowlers can be ignored. The pink ball does bring them into the game.”
Kohli, however, does not see a repeat of Adelaide in Ahmedabad. He added that England, who too capitulated for 58 in their last pink ball Test against New Zealand in Auckland, also won’t be affected by a one-off dismal show.
“Both are bizarre experiences for two quality sides. If you ask England the same question - do you think you can be bowled out for 50-odd, their answer would probably be no. You understand that on a particular day, things are supposed to happen in a certain way.”
“Whatever you try to do, it seems to be out of control and nothing seems to go right. That happened to us in Adelaide. Barring those 45 minutes of bad cricket, we dominated that Test match. We are very confident in how we play the pink ball, even in Australia where the pitches were assisting their seamers. We brushed it aside and won in Melbourne. That (36 all out) is not a hindrance or mental scar,” he added.
Catch the match
India vs England
Third Test at Motera, Ahmedabad
Play starts at 1 pm UAE time.