Pink fever has taken over Kolkata and myriad arrangements were in full flow for Bangladesh and India’s first ever pink-ball Test, which will get underway from 1:30pm (Bangladesh time) today.
The ball, coupled with the fact that it is both countries’ first day-night Test has induced much excitement among fans in Kolkata. Tickets were in short supply and BCCI president Sourav Ganguly had earlier informed that all of the tickets for the first four days of the Test, the second of the series, were sold out. Kolkata, which has seen the likes of Shoaib Akhter bowling at high pace to Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid at the Eden Gardens, were now thrilled by the prospect of watching a battle between Virat Kohli and Abu Jayed or Rohit Sharma against Al-Amin Hossain or Mustafizur Rahman.
There may be a gulf in the level of competition but one also has to consider that the last Test played here was back in 2017. However, it was the use of the pink ball under lights that has roused the public’s interest. The historic Test has been promoted extensively and there was a festive atmosphere ahead of the Test with landmark sites of the ‘City of Joy’ adorned with pink while the BCCI has organised several functions and special guests to commemorate the occasion.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee are going to be present as the historic Test unfolds and the players who played in Bangladesh’s debut Test against India in November 2000 have also been invited. Bangladesh’s famous singer Runa Laila will sing before the toss. Indian cricket legends Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and Rahul Dravid will also be present.
If you have been in Kolkata for the past week and witnessed the excitement, there is no getting away from how big the occasion is set to be. It is a challenge for the organisers and all signs pointed to them acing it.
It is also the perfect venue for Bangladesh to play a historic Test, situated as it is in West Bengal. With there being no language barrier, players have been seen conversing with locals, and there has been a general air of bonhomie.
Beneath it all, however, is a Test match and the auspicious nature of the game will do little to change the realities in each camp. For Bangladesh it is a game where they will need to show a level of fight and gumption to validate all the buzz and fanfare surrounding the match. Having lost the first Test inside three days, the team needs to perform. Like everyone else, captain Mominul Haque spoke of the excitement, but he knew that Bangladesh would need something more than just going out there to be a participant in a historic occasion.
“Neither of the teams have played pink-ball Tests. It’s something new and both teams are excited,” Mominul said. “Everyone in Kolkata wants to be part of this match and to come here with their families and close ones. It’s an exciting prospect for all.”
Mominul however was not worried about the occasion putting extra pressure or causing a loss of focus. “I don’t feel that the things happening outside the sphere of cricket will affect us as professionals. One should not feel the pressure due to such atmosphere. We are focused on what we have to do. There is no chance that there will be pressure because of that.”
Meanwhile, India skipper Virat Kohli has experienced an atmosphere similar to this when they took on Pakistan in the T20 World Cup in 2016 at the same ground. Instead of feeling pressure, he was focused on the crowd boosting his team and saw the match as a matter of honour.
“It can be daunting or intimidating, but it’s also very exciting. When a batsman goes out, he’ll have a lot of support. When a bowler is standing at his mark and 80,000 people are cheering for him with the new ball, which is not easy to play against, he will be boosted. The first session, the first hour, I think will be very exciting, because the energy will be high. And the people will enjoy it a lot. So obviously this is a landmark occasion and like I said before, we’re lucky that we’re starting this new trend. It’s a matter of honour,” Kohli said.