Day-night Test worth the experiment, feel former Mumbai cricketers

This year's India vs New Zealand day-night Test gets a thumbs up from players who participated in the 1997 Mumbai vs Delhi Ranji Trophy final under lights at Gwalior

When the first day-night Test between Australia and New Zealand was played at the Adelaide Oval last November, it left the cricketing fraternity divided. Some wanted to see more Tests played with the pink ball, while others were in favour of the traditional day Tests.

A general view the day-night Test between Australia and New Zealand at Adelaide Oval in November last year. PIC/GETTY IMAGES

With the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) all set to experiment the day-night Test match against New Zealand this year, it will be clearer whether day-night Tests are a viable option. Let’s go back to the Mumbai vs Delhi Ranji Trophy final played under lights at Gwalior in 1996-97. More than 11,000 runs were scored across five days with Mumbai winning the title on the basis of first innings lead. The idea of playing the final under lights was mooted then by Madhavrao Scindia, the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association president after new floodlights were installed at the Captain Roop Singh Stadium for the 1996 World Cup.

Nilesh Kulkarni and Amol Muzumdar
Nilesh Kulkarni and Amol Muzumdar

For Amol Muzumdar, who scored 144 for Mumbai in the first innings, getting used to playing for long hours under lights was a challenge. “We were so used to playing for long in daylight with the red ball. So, to get into the mindset of batting for long hours under lights with a white ball was something which had to be practised well. Luckily, I was in good form in that tournament and could quickly adapt to the change. It was a matter of couple of net sessions to get used to the challenge. I used to bat for long hours in the nets under lights and never really removed my pads. I would either bat in the nets, take throwdowns or just keep knocking around,” said Muzumdar.

I am all for it: Bahutule
Mumbai leg-spinner Sairaj Bahutule recalled: “There were a lot of insects. Probably, the ground wasn’t fumigated properly. It made fielding difficult and the lights were not proper to spot the ball clearly. There were issues, but it was still a lot of fun playing that match. I feel more such first-class games should be played under lights. I am all for it,” said.

Left-arm spinner Nilesh Kulkarni, who bowled the most number of overs (74.1) in the match for his four wickets, felt like he was bowling with a cake of soap because of the dew factor. “Dew was one of the most important factors that challenged us. I bowled almost non-stop on the last day and the dew made it difficult to grip the ball. I felt like I was holding a soap in my hands. It was difficult to field as well. There should be a lot of thought while selecting the venue for the Test against New Zealand. They should go for a venue where the possibility of dew is minimal,” said Kulkarni.

Although the Test will be played with the pink ball, the longevity of the white ball used for that Ranji final was a major issue. “The new ball was available after 40 overs and after 50 overs, you had to compulsorily change the ball. So, our whole planning and preparation relied on this factor. In one-dayers, you can get away, but in the longer format, you had to constantly go for wickets,” said Kulkarni.

Muzumdar, who played with the pink ball a lot when he was in Holland a few years ago, said spotting the ball will not be difficult. “I never felt any difference between the pink and other balls. It could be probably because I played a lot of cricket in Holland with the pink ball,” he said.

Despite the problems, Vijay Dahiya, who kept wicket for Delhi then, said there was double excitement for the players involved. “There were some challenges, but everyone was really excited to play. It (excitement) did not dip one bit in the five days that the match lasted. The body cycle also didn’t get affected a lot. There was enough time to recover as you would reach the hotel just before midnight and be fresh for the next day’s play by afternoon,” said Dahiya.

What happened under lights in 1997:
Mumbai 630 (Amol Muzumdar 144, Jatin Paranjape 111, Sanjay Manjrekar 78, Vinod Kambli 89, Wasim Jaffer 58; Nikhil Chopra 2-128, Feroze Ghayas 2-116, Rahul Sanghvi 2-80) drew with Delhi 559 (Ashu Dani 178, Ajay Sharma 176, Raman Lamba 42; Nilesh Kulkarni 4-143) Mumbai won on the basis of first innings lead

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