Ajinkya Rahane, India's Test vice-captain, has joined the chorus of pink-ball supporters, and suggested he was keen to try it out in the Duleep Trophy, which will be played as a day-night tournament this season. While Rahane has played with a pink ball of a different brand in the past, he felt the dynamics of playing with the Kookaburra ball were different and that the Duleep Trophy would help players get a feel of it.
"[I am] really excited about this pink ball," Rahane told ESPNcricinfo in Mumbai. "A long time back, I think, in an Emerging [Players] tournament we played with a pink ball, we played with fluorescent, green ball," he said. "But that was a different company - we played with Platypus ball [then], but this Kookaburra is different and we will get an idea in the Duleep Trophy [as to] how it is behaving, what the bounce is like.
"I saw this club match [Mohun Bagan v Bhowanipore] on TV. The ball was doing a bit, swinging [more] than red ball, bounce was slightly more than red ball, but once we play, once we practice with that, then only we will get an idea of how to go about it."
Rahane's observations come two days after former India captain Rahul Dravid told ESPNcricinfo that players needed to keep an open mind about day-night Test cricket with the pink ball. Other India players like Mohammad Shami and Wriddhiman Saha, who played in the country's maiden pink-ball game in Kolkata, have provided positive appraisals as well.
Rahane also gave a thumbs up to the BCCI technical committee's recommendation to play Ranji Trophy matches at neutral venues. While some former players, coaches and administrators have expressed reservations over the suggestion, Rahane felt playing at neutral centres would help players become mentally tougher.
"I think the decision which BCCI made is really good. It is challenging when you play at neutral venues," he said. "Players will learn about their game, they will get to know how to go about it. You are actually thinking more about your game, your preparation will be more [and] your strategies before the game will be slightly different. Because, when you play home games you know your home conditions, but when you play neutral games I think players will get mentally tougher."
On the personal front, Rahane used the downtime after the IPL to enjoy a brief vacation in Thailand before resuming practice a week ago ahead of the West Indies tour next month. He has been practising with wet rubber balls and tennis balls to get used to the varying pace found on different surfaces in the Caribbean.
"[A] few wickets [in West Indies], they have good bounce and pace. Jamaica has good bounce. Few wickets, there might be some turn, some help for the spinners," Rahane said. "It's rainy season in Mumbai, so we cannot practise outdoors so I am just practising indoors, but just simulating whatever conditions I am going to face.
"I was practising with wet rubber balls, just to get my reaction right, my hand-eye co-ordination right. Because sometimes wickets are softer, two-paced wickets, it [also] helps to practice with a tennis ball. The tennis ball comes [on to the batsman] slightly slower than a rubber ball. So I have been practising with tennis ball, rubber ball and leather ball."
Rahane also said he was excited and motivated by BCCI's decision to name him vice-captain for the tour. "Whenever I am on the field I always try and think that 'if I am the captain what should be my field, what I am going to do in certain situation, certain conditions.' I always think that way so that whenever opportunity comes I am ready for that," he said.
According to him, the camaraderie in the team helped the players get the best out of themselves. He said there was no competition among the likes of himself, Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, and instead there was a culture of looking out for one another. "Competing with each other would be the wrong word. I think we help each other. That's the right word," Rahane said. "During our fitness sessions, during our net sessions, we try and help each other to improve our game and improve our fitness. We motivate each other, that's the important thing. If you are willing to help your team-mate, if you are willing to improve your team-mate's game, eventually your team will go up and you are helping yourself also.
"This group has been playing together for the last two to two and a half years together. We have a good combination not only on the field but off the field [too]. We go out for dinner, go out for lunch, sometimes we just have some discussion not only on cricket but in general about what's going on in the world. I think that journey together is what we have. We enjoy each other's success in the team."