x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

India's 'Wall' Dravid backs MCC's pink ball experiment

Known for his solid technique, the former captain will face the pink ball for the first time in his career over the next four days when MCC take on Nottinghamshire in Abu Dhabi.

Rahul Dravid, a member of the MCC team, keeps his focus to adjust to the pink ball during practice at the Zayed Stadium.
Rahul Dravid, a member of the MCC team, keeps his focus to adjust to the pink ball during practice at the Zayed Stadium.

ABU DHABI // After close to 15 years on the international stage, scoring more than 22,000 runs and taking a record 200 catches in Test cricket, you would have thought Rahul Dravid had seen it all.

The India batsman, dubbed "The Wall" for his obdurate resilience and reliability throughout his glittering career, however, will be taking guard today against a ball that he has never before driven in his inimitable copybook style, or pouched in the slip cordon.

For the first time in his life, Dravid will be playing in a match where pink balls will be used as the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), guardians of the game's laws, continue their experiment with the bright-coloured balls.

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Dravid will be part of the MCC team taking on Nottinghamshire, the English county champions, in the four-day curtain-raiser for the new English domestic season at the Zayed Cricket Stadium.

A pink ball was used for the traditional season-opener last year when MCC took on Durham in Abu Dhabi. It has undergone a few tweaks since, following feedback from the cricketers. For one, the ball will have a lighter, white-coloured seam this time round.

The match will again be a day-night affair as the MCC tests the viability of conducting Test matches under floodlights, with balls that can last longer than the white ones that are used under lights at present.

Dravid, a member of the MCC's World Cricket Committee, supported the experiment and said: "I am looking forward to it. It is a unique experiment. It is a new experience for me - playing under the lights with a pink ball. It will be good fun.

"I think it is definitely worth experimenting. Last year they had some very good results in the game. Apparently there are no issues in sighting the ball.

"For me, it's obviously going to be an experience this time. It is definitely worth considering. There are countries in the world where you don't need to worry about this. There are full houses and people come to watch Test matches. So it's not an issue.

"But in some other places where crowds are dwindling and people are not coming to watch the game, I think it's definitely worth trying and experimenting.

"Like anything else, there are going to be some challenges, but there are challenges in normal Test cricket as well.

"So it is worth experimenting, especially if the visibility is good and you can sight the ball. Then I think it is something that should be considered."

Dravid's teammates over the next four days, the Afghanistan duo of Mohammed Nabi and Hamid Hassan, are also excited about playing with the pink ball.

"On the first day of practice, I was struggling to sight the ball under the floodlights," Nabi said. "It was my first time. Today [Saturday] it was a lot better."

"I have never seen the pink ball before, so it will be interesting," Hassan said. "It's a four-day game and we are playing under lights as well. So it is going to be great fun.

"It is amazing for us, for both me and Nabi, to be a part of the MCC team. Dravid is playing with us and Chris Rogers [who is captaining the MCC team] from Australia is also there. It is a good opportunity for us and a big honour.

"It is good for our future and for Afghanistan cricket and I hope we can do our best."

The ongoing experimentation with the pink ball is, according to John Stephenson, the MCC head of cricket, because the "white ball deteriorates more quickly than the red. Paint flakes off making them inconsistent".

The balls have been used in domestic matches in England, Australia and the West Indies, where a pink ball lasted 119 overs in match in Antigua.

"This fixture provides a perfect platform for us to conduct valuable research to aid the development of the world game," Stephenson said.

 

arizvi@thenational.ae