Both spinners and pacers will come into the picture in the day-night Test at Ahmedabad, feels India skipper Virat Kohli, who is well aware of the challenges before his team as they step into relatively unfamiliar territory, with pink balls, cricket under floodlights, and a new stadium.
India’s first home assignment after the long hiatus due to COVID-19, the four-Test series against England, is currently locked at 1-1.
“It’s much more challenging to play with the pink ball regardless of which pitch you’re playing on. It does tend to swing a lot more than the red ball, we saw that when we played against Bangladesh in 2019,” Kohli said in a virtual media interaction ahead of the third Test on Wednesday.
Rohit Sharma and James Anderson have hinted that the pitch isn’t expected to be vastly different from the Chennai pitch that aided spinners. Kohli, however, indicated that the role of a pacer with the pink ball cannot be understated.
“Spin will come into play for sure, but the fast bowlers cannot be ignored, the pink ball does bring them into the game till the ball is nice and shiny.”
Asked about the difference in the way they would approach the pink ball Test, Kohli stated that batsmen would need to tread carefully in the evening session under lights, a time that will be particularly intriguing for the pacers.
“Last time (against Bangladesh), we experienced that the first session is the nicest to bat, when the sun is out and the ball doesn’t do that much. But when it starts to get dark, the light changes and it gets tricky to sight the ball. Under lights is like playing the first session in the morning (in a normal Test). As a batsman, you probably have to be a bit more disciplined in the afternoon.
“Similarly, for the bowlers, the plan in the afternoon was to bowl a nice and consistent line and length. In the evenings, the pacers come into play a lot more. I think the same template will be useful in this game as well, the skipper added.
At stake is a spot in the prestigious World Test Championship final at Lord’s, thereby neither team can take their foot off the gas. India need to win at least one more and draw in order to qualify while Joe Root’s men must win both the remaining games.
Playing down WTC qualification scenarios, Kohli made it clear that India will look to win both matches.
“We’re not looking to win one and draw one. Rather, we’re looking to win both. For us, these are two games of cricket. In the present moment, we’re ready for the grind for five days. We’re taking it one day at a time. We’re going to focus on what we can do as individuals in the present moment rather than focussing on scenarios.”
Kohli also heaped praise on Ishant, his Delhi teammate, who is standing on the cusp of playing his 100th Test.
Highlighting his camaraderie with the towering pacer, the skipper said, “I have known Ishant for many years now, we’ve been roommates state cricket and Ranji cricket. We both know each other inside out. Playing 100 Tests as a bowler is no mean feat, especially in Indian conditions, but he persevered and kept working hard.
“I was most excited to work with him and bring his best out as an attacking fast bowler. In fact, it’s worked really well for both of us. Not just for him as a fast bowler but for me as a captain to have that kind of experience. I have been really happy to see him enjoy his bowling in the past 4-5 years and to have become a stalwart of the fast-bowling group,” the elated skipper said.
The Sardar Patel Stadium, the venue for the third Test, is the world’s largest cricket venue with a seating capacity of 1,10,000. At least 50,000 fans are expected to throng the venue, and the skipper feels that this could play on the minds of English cricketers.
“Crowds play a massive role. We saw the difference in the second Test at Chennai. I’ve experienced that as a batsman, when you walk onto the field and 30,000 fans are booing you or clapping when the bowlers running into bowl. So, it does play on your head. We would love for that atmosphere to be present and make life difficult for the opposition,” concluded Kohli.