Abhijit Bhattacharya is not someone that stories are woven around, yet his name will come up whenever India's history of pink-ball cricket is recounted.
Bhattacharya, along with Premdip Chatterjee, happened to be the on-field umpires in the first four-day pink-ball match played in the country - the CAB Super League final in 2016 at Eden Gardens.Bhattacharya proudly recollects four "different" evenings in his otherwise normal life.
"I went into the game with an open mind," Bhattacharya told TOI, recalling that sultry May day. "For me it was just about a different colour. How different could it be from the red or white ball?"
It was different, as Bhattacharya found out. The ball bounced more and travelled better than the red ball, but not as much as the white one. "I would say that the behaviour of the pink ball was closer to that of the white ball... There wasn't too much difference," Bhattacharya opined.
During every interval, the organisers checked with the umpires about the pink ball. "We were watching it from very close quarters, so our inputs were very important."
The umpire felt Bhawanipore went into that game against Mohun Bagan with a mental block. "They were more apprehensive than their opponents," Bhattacharya said. It showed in their game as some of the Bhawanipore batsmen started shakily. "The batsman who had left a good ball alone in the first innings, went on to get a half-century in the second," Bhattacharya said.
The match was played with the Kookaburra ball, which has a wider and flatter seam than the SG ball. The same ball was used in Duleep Trophy later that season and a few players complained that the seam lost its prominence as the innings progressed. With SG balls set to be used during the D/N Test, that may not happen.Bhattacharya was quite happy with the pink ball. "As there was no marked change in its shape, we didn't have to change the ball. In fact, it retained quite a bit of its characteristics. There was a fair amount of movement early on, but later it became easy. Mohammed Shami extracted some reverse swing too," he recalled.
"The players were sighting the ball better under lights and no one complained of any problem during the twilight zone," added the umpire, who managed to keep a pink ball used in that game as souvenir.