Harbhajan Singh has asked India to embrace day-night Test cricket on a day when top BCCI officials said they declined to play a day-night Test in Australia to give India the best chance of winning the series. Administration and former players in Australia and believe India have rejected the offer to deny a potential advantage to an Australian team already weakened by bans to their two best batsmen, Steven Smith and David Warner.
“I believe every team wants to win the series and that’s why we want to give our team the best possible chance,” the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) chief Vinod Rai said at an event in Delhi. “What’s wrong in us wanting to win all the matches? Any team that steps out on a pitch wants to win. Thirty years back they said India play Test matches only to draw but they don’t say that anymore.”
Harbhajan was also present at the function, but speaking on the sidelines he chose to differ with the opinion of the administrators. “I don’t know why they don’t want to play day-night Test matches,” he said. “It’s an interesting format and we should try it. I am all for it. Tell me what’s the apprehension of playing with pink ball? If you play, [then only] you can adjust. It may not be as difficult as it seems.”
India’s team management is believed to look at this tour as their best opportunity to win a series in Australia. Australia have already played four day-night Tests, which gives them a big advantage according to India, who have played none so far.
“So what if you get out?” Harbhajan said. “We have fast bowlers to trouble them. And what makes us think our batsmen can’t take up the challenge of facing Aussie pacers? It’s a challenge, and what’s the harm in taking up the challenge? When we were new to Test cricket, we had only learnt how to bowl with SG Test ball and then slowly learnt to bowl with Kookaburra and Dukes.
“Don’t you accept the challenge of playing England in overcast conditions in their country? Isn’t that a challenge? If we could take up that challenge why not pink-ball cricket?”
The board’s CEO Rahul Johri held a different view, though. “Who we play, when we play, where we play and how we play is our prerogative,” Johri said. “We will back everything for the Indian team to play to win.”
Technically India are well within their rights to not play the day-night Test. The playing conditions in bilateral series state that both sides have to agree for a day-night Test to take place. However, once the Test championship kicks in, India might not have that choice. The host side can schedule up to one Test under lights without needing the consent of the touring side.
Harbhajan was not the only one in disagreement with the administration. India are believed to have learnt their lesson from the defeat in the Test series in South Africa, and are travelling to England a month in advance, but former opener Gautam Gambhir is not impressed. Most of that month will go in playing ODIs and T20Is, and India will go into the Test with one tour game with Duke balls behind them. Gambhir believes playing the white Kookaburra on flat limited-overs surfaces is no preparation for Test cricket in England.
“Playing with red Dukes in Test is completely different from playing white-ball cricket,” Gambhir said. “The three T20s and three ODIs isn’t an indicator of how well you are prepared for the Tests.”
At the function, Gambhir asked the board to focus less on limited-overs formats to ensure the primacy of Test cricket.
“I don’t think BCCI has marketed Test cricket as well as they have done with ODIs and T20s,” Gambhir said. “I remember a Test match at Eden Gardens against West Indies [in 2011-12]. India batting on the first day and there were [just] 1000 people. Imagine Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman playing and there are only 1000 people.”