Having captained India Blue in two matches of the Duleep Trophy, Gautam Gambhir has categorically said that the pink ball behaves in "exactly the same way" as the red ball. Rejecting assertions that playing with a pink ball under lights is significantly different to the way long-form cricket is usually played, Gambhir said the players are required to make only minor adjustments to come to terms with the conditions.
"We have to be clear, it is only the colour of the ball that has changed, nothing else has changed," Gambhir told ESPNcricinfo from Delhi. "It is a Kookaburra ball that behaves exactly the same way as a red ball or a white ball. People make so much fuss about the pink ball that it swings more or dips more, you can't pick the wristspinners and so on. I believe the more you think about it, the more complicated you make the game. It is far more visible in the day time as compared to the red ball because it is far more brighter. In the last two games that I have played, I have seen nothing different. The red ball and pink ball behave exactly in the same way."
The Duleep trophy, played in a zonal format previously, was re-formatted this season by the BCCI as an experiment to gauge the players' reaction to playing first-class cricket under lights with a pink ball. India Blue, led by Gautam Gambhir, will face India Red, led by Yuvraj Singh, in the final in Greater Noida starting September 10. The intention behind the tournament is also to assess the feasibility of playing a day-night Test match in India in the near future, though Gambhir was unenthused by such a move.
"I am a traditionalist, I have always believed it is meant to be played during the day, that is my personal observation," he said. "You can change the 50 over to T20 format, but Test cricket should remain the way it has been because you can't lose the charm. Ultimately, the idea behind the pink ball is so that you can pull the crowd back. In England and Australia, there are packed crowds during the day Test matches. Maybe because we couldn't pull crowds during day time, we wanted to experiment. Maybe we could have promoted Test cricket in a far better and bigger way as compared to how we promote our T20 and one-day cricket. I personally feel we should keep Test cricket the way it is because night Test cricket would take the charm away from Test cricket."
Gambhir's form in the Duleep Trophy has been encouraging with scores of 77, 90 and 59 in the three innings. Since losing his place in the Indian Test team after a faltering comeback in England in 2014, the left-handed opener has fallen off the selectors' radar. Now with M Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul jostling for the two specialist opening positions, Gambhir faces a tough task to convince the selectors that he can find the form that saw him score nine centuries in his 56-Test career. However, Gambhir insisted that he wasn't thinking about a national recall, focusing instead on how he could contribute to the team in every match he plays.
"I am very happy because, obviously, at the start of the season, you are very nervous because you want to start off the season really well," he said. "Three half centuries in a row is really pleasing and I hope I can continue this momentum into the season. But at the same time, I would have loved to convert these half centuries into hundreds. I still have two more innings to go.
"I have always maintained one thing that the platform does not matter to me. My job is, whenever I play and for whichever team, my job is to score runs. I have played enough to know that I can't keep thinking about playing for India because that will be very selfish of me. If I am playing Duleep Trophy I should concentrate 100% on that. If I can't do that, I wouldn't be doing justice to my team. To be honest to your job, you have to be 100% on what role you have been given and what role you have to perform.
"In cricket, people relate you and your prime form to the amount of runs you score, but at the same time, if you are content and happy and at peace with your game, that is what I have always believed in. This word called form is a very overrated thing. If I am at peace with my game, I am happy with my game, ultimately I will end up scoring runs. But for people, golden phase etc. is all related to the amount of runs. At the moment, I am far more at peace with my game than when I was scoring all those runs for India."
Since he last played a Test for India in August 2014, Gambhir has scored 1450 runs in 32 innings in first-class cricket at an average of just under 49. Only one opener, Abhinav Mukund with 1618 runs, has scored more runs in domestic cricket than Gambhir during this period. However, last season, Gambhir produced underwhelming returns, averaging under 38 for 488 runs without a single hundred in his 14 innings for Delhi. Gambhir argued those numbers had to be evaluated in the right context as he insisted on "result-oriented wickets" as Delhi captain in the quest to achieve more outright wins.
"Since I made my debut, we hadn't won 12 or 13 outright games like we have in the last 2-3 years," he said. "My aim has always been to prepare wickets which can give us outright results. We could have easily gone and played on flat wickets where people could have scored 800-900 runs in a season. But I have always believed that is not the way to play this game, it is meant to be played to win.
"If we go out there and think we need to get the first-innings lead and I need to score my own hundred or double-hundred and try and represent my country, that would be very unfair on the bowlers as well. Then, I would have been very selfish about my own individual performances and thinking about my own comeback. What about the other 10 people then, who would be helping me or help Delhi win? I may have ended up with less than 500 runs, but with a young side, we won four [three] outright matches and missed on qualifying by one point. If you score runs on a result-oriented wicket, it gives you far more satisfaction than scoring them on a flat track."
Gaurav Kalra is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo. @gauravkalra75