All Eyes on the Pitch for the Pink Ball Test

England were sent packing for just 134 in the first innings of the second test against India and it brought hoards of, mostly English and Australian, fans complaining about the spin-friendly wicket.

Michael Vaughn opened the floodgates of criticism about the Chennai pitch since day 1 itself. He criticized the lack of grass on the pitch and how it was not worthy of being a test wicket. Indian team’s performance was in itself a great counterargument to Michael Vaughn’s comments but questions have again started to crop about the third test’s pitch.

This will be the first-ever pink ball test match in India and the newly constructed Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel stadium is getting ready to host it. The ICC has a close eye on the type of pitch that the BCCI creates for the test.

What is mandatory 6mm grass?

ICC regulations say that there must be at least 6mm grass left on the pitch in order for the pink ball to retain its color for the entirety of 80 overs. In countries like Australia, New Zealand, and England it is not an issue as they historically prefer to have grass on the pitch that assists swing bowlers. Indian subcontinent however keeps the pitch spin-friendly by cutting the grass to 2mm or even less.

Since the third test is very crucial for both teams in order to qualify to the final of the World Test Championship, it must be a huge headache for the pitch curators who have the job of adhering to the ICC’s regulation as well as creating a pitch that gives the advantage to the Indian spinners.

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How does the pitch look so far?

Some pictures of the third test pitch have been posted online and it looks like a very pace-friendly wicket. There is a lot of grass on it, something that James Anderson and co would be salivating over. Things however would certainly change before the start of the game. There is no chance that the curators would leave this much grass on the pitch and hinder India’s progress to the World Test Championships final. Not that India was looking for any affirmations but Root and Broad have openly spoken in favour of home teams getting advantages in their stadiums and pitches. This could be another boost to the curator’s decision in keeping the pitch spin-friendly.

The fate of the SG ball?

Kohli and Ashwin have been very critical of the SG ball used in Indian First-class cricket and Test matches. The problem with the SG ball is that it looks like a dog chewed it just after 15 overs of the game. SG ball loses its leather so early in the game that bowlers have no hope of doing anything with it in the remaining overs. It also makes batting unpredictable. Kohli and Ashwin have asked BCCI to either better regulate the quality or look for an alternative.

The pink test between India and England on 24th February would be a big challenge for the SG ball and could potentially decide its fate in Indian cricket. Although problematic, the ball is still visible in the day test as there is so much natural light to play under. This would not be the case in a day-night Test. The SG ball would need to retain its leather and colour in order to be seen by the batsmen in the second half of the night test. If the ball loses its color not only it would be bad for the match but could potentially be dangerous for the batsmen as well.

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It would be interesting to see how it plays out in the third test between India and England.

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