Motera pitch: India step into the ‘unknown’ for the pink ball Test

India step into the ‘unknown’ in the third Test of the four-Test series when they play against England on a fresh pitch of a new stadium in Motera, near Ahmedabad, in a day-night game from Wednesday.

Although latest pictures of the pitch show that there is a layer of grass on it, India opening batsman Rohit Sharma said that the pitch won’t be any different from the one in the second Test that supported spin bowlers. Since the reconstruction work on the Sardar Patel (Gujarat) Stadium in Motera was completed in February last year, no multi days matches have been played at the newly laid pitch — partly due to Covid-enforced nationwide lockdown for almost all of the last year.

The only official matches to be played on the virgin pitch were the seven T20 games of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy this January. But it is the multi days matches that really assess pitches before it hosts five-day Test matches. That has not happened in Motera and, therefore, it is anybody’s guess how the pitch will behave.

Despite the pitch being said to be spinner-friendly, the pink ball is likely to help seam bowlers. It is expected to do more, especially in the twilight period, when it becomes difficult for the batsmen to sight the ball against pace bowlers.

England all-rounder Ben Stokes, who has bowled very little in the series so far — 12 overs in all and just two in the second Test — says he could bowl more in different settings than the first two Tests played at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.

“I think there may be more reason for me to bowl under lights in the next game if it will help the team,” Stokes wrote in his column in UK-based Daily Mirror.

“Generally, around the world whenever these pink ball games are played there is always a period when the ball starts doing a bit under lights and it brings the seamers right into the game.”

India have played just two Tests with the pink ball, with only one at home, and many of their batsmen have very little experience of batting in the twilight phase.

Rohit Sharma, who missed the first Test in Australia at the Adelaide Oval, admitted on Sunday that he doesn’t have any experience of playing in the twilight phase.

“So far, I have only heard that it plays on a batsman’s mind. I have played just one pink ball Test against Bangladesh but didn’t get to bat at the twilight time when the sun was about to set. But I have to try and understand what exactly happens during that time,” he told the media.

“It’s obviously challenging, the weather and light suddenly changing. You have to be extra cautious and focussed. All batters are aware of these challenges. We just need to be mindful of the situation and play accordingly,” he added.