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Finally, big boys will plat at night
With Test matches finally set to become day-night affairs, cricket's last bastion is set to fall. As experts debate over the merits of this latest development, protagonists from a maiden event, over a decade ago, recount their experiences.
It's been 35 years since the maverick Kerry Packer changed the face of cricket. He was termed a rebel then, but the 20th century trend of turning a rebellion into fashion saw the advent of ICC backed day-and-night ODIs, easily the most commercially viable product the game has ever seen. The popcorn cult reached its zenith with T20 taking centrestage and now the 'state-backed monster' is ready to invade its own sacred shrine - Test cricket.
The dwindling interest in the longest format has forced the ICC to legalise Test cricket under lights - a decision which may well change the entire dynamics of the game. The BCCI, staying true to their current stand of opposing every ICC move, is not ready to play along, but for once there seems to be some substance in their decision.
It was in 1996-97 when the BCCI had tried this format out, when they hosted the Ranji Trophy final under lights in Gwalior. The Ranji final then, used to be played in summer and the decision was taken to give some relief to the Mumbai and Delhi players.
"Yes, it was cooler in the evenings and a good crowd used to come every evening. I don't know whether that was because of the day-and-night game or the two big teams, but it felt nice to play domestic cricket in front of a decent gathering, " says Amol Muzumdar, who scored 144 for Mumbai in that game.
Mumbai piled up a huge 630 with Wasim Jaffer and Muzumdar scoring centuries and Delhi were well-placed at one stage with Ashu Dani and Ajay Sharma both getting big centuries. But on the final day, they collapsed and got all out for 559, and Mumbai won the title on first-innings lead.
"I had got a century in the semifinal as well, so I was pretty much in form. So it didn't matter to me, whether it was played during the day or under lights. But yes, it was pretty demanding on the body, " Muzumdar says.
The highest run-getter Ranji Trophy then went on to explain his point. "When it's one-day cricket (we hadn't heard anything called T20 then), the match gets over around 10:30 and you go to sleep not before 2 a. m. It's OK for one day, but when it becomes five days back to back, you suddenly start feeling the pinch. It's almost like having a jet-lag, " he remembers.
He went on to add that "duration cricket under lights is more difficult for bowlers". "In that game, the bowling team had the option of changing the ball after 40 overs and it had to be changed after 50. So the reverse swing went out of the window, " Muzumdar says, standing by the bowlers.
Delhi paceman Atul Wassan, who toiled for 39 overs in that game with returns of 1-124 feels that if ICC is taking commerce into consideration, then it's a wonderful innovation. "Cricket, like every other facet of life, has to evolve. But then, Test cricket under lights has its set of problems, " he says.
Going back to the summer of '97, the former India paceman said how the colour of the ball used to change completely. "Once the ball becomes black, there's no option for you but to change it. In ODIs, these days two new balls are used from two ends, which means that none are 25 overs old when the innings gets over. But if you're trying to do something like that in Test cricket, you are taking essential elements of the game out of the picture, " Wassan says.
The wear and tear of the red ball is very much a part of Test cricket and reverse swing adds to the charm. Then, as the ball gets old, the spinner too, comes into play, making the game all the more intriguing. "It's important to decide the colour of the ball, whether you want to play with a pink or a white ball. There are a lot of permutations and combinations that will come into play, " the pacer said, adding that day-night Test cricket would be an "absolute no-no in places like England and New Zealand, where the conditions change drastically after sundown". "But for the subcontinent and places like Australia and South Africa, it can be tried out. "
Mumbai left-arm spinner Nilesh Kulkarni, who got 4-143 in the Gwalior game, is far more sceptical. "Firstly, it's extremely taxing on the body. . . Secondly, if a white kookaburra ball is used, the seam falls off very fast and it virtually becomes impossible to get any purchase. . . And my god, that Gwalior pitch was really a dead one, " Kulkarni says.
But then, how did he get all those wickets?
The former India spinner talked of a strategy that skipper Sanjay Manjrekar employed on the final day, when things were looking a little desperate for Mumbai. "Their third-wicket partnership was going out of hand. . . So Sanjay decided to bowl me unchanged right from the start of the day, " Kulkarni recalls. He talked about the rhythm, which is so important for a spinner to succeed. "But when the ball is getting changed every 50 overs, how can a spinner settle into a long spell? That's why Sanjay decided that it doesn't matter whether it's a new ball or old, I had to bowl. It worked well for us and we won, " Kulkarni says.
But he felt that it can't be a long-term solution. "Don't forget there is the dew factor in India. The ball will become like soggy a soap and it will become extremely difficult to grip, more so for a spinner. I don't know how ICC is planning to deal with these things, " Kulkarni says, putting a question mark on the concept.
ONE-DAY INNOVATIONS GET THUMBS UP
The two innovations that the ICC has brought in for ODIs were welcomed by one and all. According to the new rules, two bouncers will be allowed per over and there will be two PowerPlays instead of three. Former India captain Dilip Vengsarkar feels it's a step in the right direction. "The one bouncer rule was too much in favour of the batsmen. If a bouncer was bowled early on, then the batsman knew there was nothing coming up to his shoulder for the rest of the over. So he could easily go on the front-foot and play through the line, " Vengsarkar says.
Wassan, too, feels the bowlers will now have something up their sleeve. "As it is the game is far too harsh on the bowlers. But yes, this will bring more life into the game, especially in subcontinental conditions. I am fully in favour of the two-bouncer rule. "
Vengsarkar is of the opinion that the two PowerPlay rule is also a "decent move". "It was not fair on the bowlers earlier. They hardly had any cover for 20 overs off the 50 that was to be bowled. Now it's 15 and I am sure they will feel a lot more relieved, " the Colonel says, looking forward to the changes in the days to come.
THE INTERNATIONAL CRICKET COUNCIL ANNOUNCED CHANGES TO THE PLAYING CONDITIONS FOR ALL THREE FORMATS, EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY WITH THE SL-NZ T20 INTERNATIONAL ON TUESDAY...
Teams can play day-night Tests provided they can agree on the brand, type and colour of the ball to be used.
There will be two two blocks of ODI Powerplays instead of three. The first will be restricted to the first 10 overs with only two fielders allowed outside the 30-yard circle. The second 5-over Batting Powerplay will have to be completed by the 40th over, with only three fielders to be allowed outside the fielding restriction area at the time of delivery. In non-Powerplay overs, no more than four fielders will be permitted outside the 30-yard circle.
Bowler has allowed two short-pitched deliveries per over in ODIs.
LBW LAW AMENDMENT REGARDING DRS:
If a 'not out' decision is being reviewed, in order to report that the point of impact is between wicket and wicket (i. e. in line with the stumps), the evidence provided by technology should show that the centre of the ball at the moment of interception is in line within an area demarcated by a line drawn below the lower edge of the bails and down the middle of the outer stumps. If an 'out' decision is being reviewed, in order to report that the point of impact is not between wicket and wicket (i. e. outside the line of the stumps), the evidence provided by technology should show that no part of the ball at the moment of interception is between wicket and wicket.
THIRD UMPIRE ASKED TO CHECK FOR NO-BALLS :
The third umpire shall immediately check the fairness of a delivery (foot-fault only) following a dismissal. If the delivery was deemed unfair, the third umpire shall advise the onfield umpire to recall the batsman.
CHANGES IN T20 ELIMINATOR:
In both innings of one-over per side eliminator, fielding side shall choose from which end to bowl. Only nominated players in main match may participate in the Eliminator. The team fielding first shall have first choice of ball.
In a match where Spydercam is being used, either umpire shall call and signal 'dead ball', should a ball that has been hit by the batsman make contact while still in play.
OVER-RATE TIME ALLOWANCES:
In addition to the available allowances under Clause 16. 2 (Minimum Over-Rates ), additional allowance of one minute will be given for the fall of each of the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth wickets.
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