New Delhi - India's Duleep Trophy domestic championship began staging its first match under floodlights Tuesday, experimenting with a pink ball in a likely precursor to the advent of day-night Tests in cricket's biggest market.
Organisers of the Duleep Trophy, a four-day triangular tournament which traditionally heralds the start of the Indian cricket season, are hoping to attract bigger crowds by playing until around 9pm.
But the first match on the outskirts of the capital New Delhi is also being closely watched by India's cricket board, which is widely expected to push ahead with plans for a day-night Test if the experiment succeeds.
The first-ever day-night Test match, which saw Australia beat New Zealand by three wickets in Adelaide last November, got mixed reviews from players and commentators.
But players taking part in Tuesday's match, between teams that have been rebranded India Red and India Green, were excited at the prospect of the longest format of the game also being played after dark in India.
"I think it is pretty exciting and something to look forward to," said veteran all-rounder Yuvraj Singh, who has enjoyed great success for the national team under lights in ODI and T20 cricket.
"The New Zealand-Australia Test match I saw was pretty exciting. The ball was swinging a bit much. It will be challenging if it swings a lot, playing under lights," added Singh, who is captaining India Red.
Suresh Raina, the captain of India Green who is trying to force his way back into the Indian team, was similarly enthusiastic.
"The Duleep Trophy has not been played with the pink ball before and it's a good challenge. All the boys are keen (to perform) and this is a good platform ahead of the season," said Raina.
Singh's team won the toss and chose to bat first in the afternoon in front of a sizeable crowd who had filed in to watch a piece of cricketing history.
"It's a novel idea. Local people are eager to watch the pink ball game under lights. We are just hoping that all goes well," Rajeev Tyagi, one of the ground's administrators, told AFP.
India had been expected to stage their first day-night Test during a tour by New Zealand starting next month. But the plans were shelved to give more time for trials of the pink Kookaburra ball.
Designers say the pink ball is far more visible under lights than the red ball that has traditionally been used in Tests. The white ball used in limited-overs cricket is not viable for Tests as it clashes with the players' white clothing and sight screens as well as being less durable.
The Australia-New Zealand match is the only Test so far to have been played under lights. But Pakistan are also set to stage day/night contests against Australia and the West Indies in the Gulf later this year.
India, who have just been toppled by Pakistan at the top of the rankings, are about to embark on an extensive round of Test match cricket by hosting series against New Zealand, England, Bangladesh and Australia.
While India's ODI and T20 matches are usually played in front of packed houses, Tests are only rarely sold out.