Mithali Raj: 'A little more time' with pink ball would have been 'quite helpful'
India Test captain also bats for resumption of multi-day tournaments at the domestic level
Two days of training is all India have had to familiarise themselves with the pink ball as their debut in day-night Test cricket beckons. On the eve of their first-ever pink-ball Test, starting Thursday against Australia on the Gold Coast, India captain Mithali Raj revealed her side first practised with the pink ball only on Tuesday.
"The first training session that we had with the pink ball was yesterday," Raj told reporters from India in an online interaction on Wednesday. "Yes, for everybody it was a little bit of a different experience because we are not so used to seeing a pink ball around. It does move quite a bit. That's pretty much the first impression of playing with a pink ball."
ESPNcricinfo's Stump Mic podcast had reported on Tuesday that India went into the multi-format Australia tour, where the standalone pink-ball Test is bookended by three-match ODI and T20I legs, without any practice sessions with the pink ball in the two-week preparatory camp held in Bengaluru in August.
Though two intra-squad matches were held under lights at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, and the players took part in at least one evening training session that also involved fielding and catching drills, the pink ball did not make an appearance in the camp. The focus of the preparations at the time had largely been on white-ball cricket, the 50-over format in particular, given the 2022 ODI World Cup begins in under five months' time.
"We were preparing for the one-day series back home in the Bangalore camp, so it was more to do with the white ball," Raj said. "Of course, we tried to play a few games under the lights to get used to the day-night Test and the one-off [day-night] game in the one-day series.
"The preparation was more of the one-day format in the camp. Yeah, if we could have got a little more time between the last one-day [match] and the Test, it would have been quite helpful. But, again, I understand it was shortened because of Covid-19 protocols."
The pink-ball fixture against Australia is India's second Test this year. They had drawn the standalone red-ball Test against England in June which followed the same points system as the ongoing series: four points for a win in the Test; two for a draw, and two points for each limited-overs victory. Prior to the England Test, India went nearly seven years without playing the format, and on the domestic circuit, their multi-day competition - the Senior Women's Inter-Zonal Three-Day Game - hasn't been held since the 2018-19 season.
"We are not so used to seeing a pink ball around. It does move quite a bit. That's pretty much the first impression."Mithali Raj
Raj, who remains the side's most experienced player in the format with 11 Test caps along with pace spearhead Jhulan Goswami, batted for the resumption of multi-day tournaments at the domestic level.
"Clearly, if the girls are to do well in this format, they have to have some sort of match experience in the domestic circuit," Raj said. "So, if this is going to be a regular [feature], probably, we will have another addition to a domestic calendar of playing [the] days' format."
Heading into the Test, which will be played on a drop-in surface of Gold Coast's Metricon Stadium, India, on an unbeaten five-match streak in the longest format, trail the hosts 2-4 on points in the multi-format series. They had won only one of the three ODIs and will continue to miss their designated vice-captain Harmanpreet Kaur through a thumb injury sustained prior to the ODIs.
Though the final-over victory in the third ODI on Sunday swung a semblance of impetus India's way, the proposition of facing the pink ball remains mostly an unknown for the visitors, unlike Australia, who played a pink-ball Ashes Test in 2017. Raj, for her part, acknowledged the challenge, saying India were yet to get the first-hand experience of "when it (the pink ball) gets older if it helps the seamers or the spinners".
She, however, emphasised that India were "taking confidence from the one-day" leg of the tour as far as picking up 20 wickets goes, having got "pretty much eight or nine wickets in the Australian side". "I am confident, the girls are confident, the bowlers seem confident because they have really done a good job in the one-day format," Raj said.
The addition of a Test match on their away-from-home assignments against England and Australia this year has been an encouraging sign for India's future in the format, Raj said. The prospect of playing on home conditions, she added, would be equally welcome.
"Playing Tests at home would also be quite significant because we would have the advantage and the girls would also get the experience of playing a Test at home," Raj said. "Most of the girls in the current squad have toured abroad, been part of the 2014 Test in England and the last Test in England, so I think most of them have played Test matches abroad, so it would be nice to have a Test even at home."
Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha