Varun Shetty in Kolkata


India Test specialist Cheteshwar Pujara, has suggested that Test cricket is alive and that the ongoing day-night match against Bangladesh will put the longest format in good stead. Eden Gardens is purportedly sold out till the fourth day, and although the game looks unlikely to stretch that long, the more than 40,000-strong attendance on the first two days has buoyed the players.

“When you’re playing Test cricket and when the crowd comes in, it’s always motivating for the players,” Pujara said at the press conference after the second day’s play. “I feel that Test cricket is still alive and this was one of the occasions which will boost Test cricket. As players, we do enjoy this atmosphere, especially when we’re fielding. When you’re batting, you’re always concentrating on the ball. Bowlers need a lot of support. And when we’re fielding, the moment the crowd starts supporting the bowler and fielders, it’s a great atmosphere. The bowlers are always charged up. It’s a nice atmosphere, although the game might not go on until day four, but it’s still a good experience and I’m sure the crowd is also enjoying it.”

Pujara was the second-highest scorer for India in the first innings with his 55. Although he played no part with the bat on the second day, an early finish to Bangladesh’s first innings gave him a feel of both the much-discussed twilight as well as batting under lights. Pujara said that the lights made batting much harder, and this was also behind India’s decision to declare just before tea on the second day.

“I think batting under lights was difficult when I batted yesterday,” Pujara said. “Even when I saw on the TV what was happening in the first session, I think the first session is slightly easier to bat. Because there’s no [artificial] lights. And when there’s light, I think the ball starts swinging a little more. So it is a bit challenging. And also the kind of experience we have, most of the Test matches we’ve played are during the day. So during the sunlight it’s easy to see the ball, whether it’s red or pink. But when it comes to lights, it is a little challenging for the batsman.”

This much was evident during India’s innings. Starting the middle session at 289 for 4, India’s lower-middle order collapsed as Bangladesh’s seamers, particularly Ebadat Hossain and Abu Jayed, found prodigious swing with the second new ball. India made 58 runs after lunch but lost five wickets in doing so. With the comfort of a big lead, however, an early declaration even opened up the possibility of a two-day finish when Bangladesh were reduced to 13 for 4.

“I think that was the right time to bowl because the ball was swinging,” Pujara said. “We felt that if we start bowling at that time, we can start picking early wickets, and that’s what happened. That was the right time. Dew wasn’t there. Dew started after tea time. So it was the right time.”

A late counterattack from senior batsmen Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah took Bangladesh past 150 at stumps, as the dew started setting in and the lateral movement in the last session didn’t quite hold up. But India still have a cushion of 89 runs, with Bangladesh having only four wickets in hand. There is also the possibility India’s spinners might come into the picture in the day session on Sunday. So far in this Test, they have bowled only a combined six overs for 24 runs. But Pujara reckoned the pitch had begun taking turn, and that the SG ball offers something for spinners as compared to the Kookaburra one.

“Not a major difference [between the two balls]. Even this ball is travelling from the bat. The SG ball is swinging a little more than Kookaburra. But I think there’s a little more spin with the SG ball. When I played Duleep Trophy with the Kookaburra ball, I don’t think there was much assistance for spinners, apart from the wristspinners. So with this ball I think there is some spin. We saw when Taijul [Islam] was bowling, he got a little spin, and [R] Ashwin also got a little bit of spin. So I think there’s little more assistance for spinners. But it is still not as much as what you get from a red ball.”

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