India maybe the last major test playing nation to embrace pink-ball cricket but they have left no stone unturned in promoting their first day-night test which will begin in front of a sellout crowd at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens on Friday.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will headline the list of dignitaries and army paratroopers will descend to hand over pink balls to India captain Virat Kohli and his counterpart Mominul Haque.
The eastern Indian city is firmly in the grip of a pink fever and tickets for the first four days have already sold out.
City landmarks are being illuminated in pink to mark the occasion, and a ball-shaped pink blimp hovers over the 67,000-capacity stadium.
“I don’t remember similar excitement in any test in India in the last 20 years,” cricket historian Boria Majumdar told Reuters.
“The closest is the 2001 India-Australia test but there too it was only on day five,” he said, referring to India’s sensational victory after being asked to follow-on.
In the stands will be ‘superfan’ Sudhir Chaudhary, a permanent fixture in all India matches with his painted body and an India flag.
“I attend all India matches but this is very special,” Chaudhary, almost unrecognisable without body paint, told Reuters while sipping lemon tea from a roadside vendor outside Eden Gardens.
“Eden Gardens has a rich history and this is another chapter.”
The players are not immune to the fever either.
Kohli said the last time he felt a similar buzz at Eden Gardens was when India played arch-rivals Pakistan in a Twenty20 World Cup match in 2016.
“It’s a landmark occasion and we’re lucky to be the first Indian team playing a day-night test,” Kohli told reporters on the eve of the 12th day-night test in the game’s history.
“It can be a daunting, intimidating experience for a player… I’m expecting exciting cricket in the first hour because the energy level will be very high. I’m sure the fans would enjoy it.”
Approximately 5000 Bangladeshi fans will cheer Mominul and his men as they seek to bounce back from defeat inside three days in the series opener in Indore.
“Test cricket needs to be more competitive. At the same time, if you want to bring crowd back into test cricket, pink-ball is an excellent idea,” Mominul said ahead of what would be Bangladesh‘s maiden day-night test as well.