‘Why Pink Ball?’ in cricket

Cricket fans have been throwing around the ‘pink ball’ on the Internet ever since India outperformed Bangladesh in the first Test match in Indore, leading the series 1-0. While the victory was a sweet one, the enthusiasm soon shifted on to the Eden Gardens Test.

What’s special, you ask?

Pink ball is going to be used in the historic Day/Night Test match at the famous Eden Gardens venue against Bangladesh on Friday. This will be the first D/N Test for India, who have previously played with the cherry in the regular day Test format.

Incidentally, only Cheteshwar Pujara, Wriddhiman Saha, and Mohammed Shami have previously playedwith a pink ball. In fact, the only pink ball match that Shami has ever appeared in, the Indian pacer ended up picking five wickets.

While the curiosity around the Day/Night Test is real and social media has been flooded with ‘pink ball’ trivia and comparisons ever since the news broke out, several fans from India simply relied on google to find out the actual fuss about the newly introduced format to them.

Why is Pink ball used in Day/Night Test? What is its speciality?

The top query on Google from Indian cricket fans perhaps was (is) – why pink ball?

Simply because of its better visibility in the artificial lights of the stadium once the natural light fades away. Under yellow floodlights or in the artificially lit stadium, the maroon/red ball used in the Day Tests takes the brownish colour – making it difficult for both the teams, especially for the batsman, to spot the ball against the pitch.

why pink ball
pink ball speciality

It’s worth noting that all the Day/Night Tests have produced results thus far. The first Test with the pink ball was played between Australia and New Zealand back in 2015 at Adelaide Oval. Australia emerged victorious by 4 wickets.

How much does the pink ball cost in India?

Manufactured in Meerut India, the homemade Sanspareils Greenlands (SG) pink ball carries a price tag of Rs 2700 a piece, TOI reported.

pink ball price

Paratroopers

“Paratroopers” was the trending “related” topic on Thursday when one googled ‘pink ball’ in India. But why?

Army paratroopers will fly into the Eden Gardens to hand over a pink ball each to the two captains just before the toss.

“The paratroopers will fly into the wicket with two pink balls. We have discussed the plans with the Army (Eastern Command),” said CAB Secretary Avishek Dalmiya.

paratrooper

But it’s not the just fans back home who are anxious and excited about India’s Test with the pink ball.

Speaking after the Indore’s comfortable win skipper Kohli said the team was excited about the new challenge.

“The pink-ball Test is going to be exciting, will be a challenge for the batters. With the older ball, it doesn’t swing that much so the bowlers will have a challenge. We’re just happy to be among the first to play pink-ball cricket for India.”

While the former Indian cricketer and current head of the NCA (National Cricket Academy), Rahul Dravid said, “It is not the only solution to rejuvenate Test cricket, but it is one of the things we need to do. If only we are able to control dew, the pink ball Test can become an annual feature in India.”

As for Ravichandran Ashwin, Indian’s frontline spinner is yet to come to terms with the colour of the ball.

“Sometimes I don’t understand if it’s orange or pink, still coming to terms with that,” he said.

But to begin with, why the colour pink for a cricket ball?

Pink was the consensus colour after ball makers tried optic yellow and bright orange, which were easy to spot on the grass, and by fielders taking high catches. Batsmen, however, complained that these colours tended to merge with the brownish patches on the pitch.

Ball maker Kookaburra started with a dark green seam on the ball, but switched to white and ultimately to black after Steve Smith, the former Australia captain and one of the contemporary greats of the international game, said the seam needed to be more visible.

But are pink balls made differently from red or white ones?

Not really. Red, white, pink — all cricket balls are made of cork, rubber and woollen yarn, using similar production techniques. The colour of the dye on the tanned cowhide, and the difference in ‘finishing’ decide in which format a ball is used.

The conventional red Test cricket ball is dipped in grease so that water doesn’t seep into the leather. But this cannot be done with the Day/Night Test pink ball since grease would dull the fluorescent pink, affecting the visibility of the ball under lights.

The D/N ball also gets a pigment finish, and is sprayed with a thick coat of pink colour so that it sparkles for long, making it easy for fielders, batsmen, fans in the stands, and those watching the game on television to spot.

But this emphasis on maintaining the pinkness of the ball also slows its aging, which takes away from the intrigue of a Test match.

Also, there is some concern in the Indian camp ahead of the Eden Test that the extra coating of lacquer on the ball — which enables it to retain its colour over the course of the match — ends up with making the ball appear more orange than pink under floodlights.

Does this mean pink is merely a white ball in disguise?

Yes and no. Like the white ball used in the shorter versions, pink too, does go flat.

It is lighter than red, and swings more in the initial overs. It also shows 20% more seam moment.

However, once the ball is softer, the swing disappears. With no real weathering or fading of the leather, pacers find it difficult to get reverse swing, and spinners complain of lack of turn. This often results in long periods of boring play.

More importantly for India, if the old ball does not reverse, the advantage of the Indian pace attack of Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar will be significantly blunted. (Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar are not in the current squad.)

But what is the point of playing a Test match in the evening?

The idea emerged in the late 2000s, when there was concern over the dwindling viewership for Test matches.

It was argued that holding One Dayers and T20s in the evenings had brought more people to the grounds and in front of TVs, so the same might work for Tests as well — especially because there was no way of avoiding at least a part of a Test match being played on weekdays.

The other argument has been that day-night Tests produce results more often than conventional Test matches.

While it is true that all 11 D/N Tests played so far have produced a result, the conditions have had a bigger say in who has dominated.

While bowlers have done well in Australia and New Zealand (where England were shot out for 58 in December 2017), the batting milestones have come elsewhere (such as Azhar Ali’s triple hundred in Dubai in 2016 and Alastair Cook’s 243 in Edgbaston last year).

Asian surfaces have suited spinners — Devendra Bishoo’s 8/49 in Dubai are the best figures with pink — but D/N games in the southern hemisphere have been dominated by pace.

Most D/N Tests have come alive in the twilight period, when the sun hasn’t fully set and the floodlights are partially switched on, the mix of natural and artificial light makes it difficult for batsmen to spot the pink ball, and the falling temperature and moisture in the air suddenly make the ball swing.

Written By:- Ravindra Gupta

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