Pink-ball cricket: Swing is the name of the game

The first pink-ball match in India, in Kolkata, featuring Mohun Bagan and Bhawanipore, was well received by the public, players and the umpires.

The pink ball at the Eden Gardens.

Wriddhiman Saha says that the pink ball could be spotted easily and had great visibility.

The Sourav Ganguly-led Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) took the lead in organising India’s first ever pink-ball match at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. Thanks to the publicity surrounding the pink ball, the Super League final featuring two local clubs Mohun Bagan Athletic Club and Bhawanipore Club, was telecast live on Star Sports and received good response from the public. It was well received by the players and the umpires as well.

The two international players, seamer Mohammad Shami and wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha, playing for Mohun Bagan, made some apt observations about the experiment of pink ball day-night cricket in Indian conditions. Their experience assumes significance as the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is planning to host a day-night Test match later this year.

Shami, who came out of a long injury layoff to capture five wickets in the first innings and two in the second, was delighted with the ball’s movement. “I will prefer pink ball any day, hope this pink-ball match prospers. The best thing is you got to bowl only one session under sun. Then the ball starts doing the talk once the lights are on,” said Shami, who bowled a spell of 15 overs in the second innings.

“I got reverse swing in the first innings. I think if the condition is dry, the ball will reverse. The seam usually does not remain intact after 40 overs, but it is not the case with the pink ball.”

Saha also liked the pink ball. “Every ball is swinging which is not the case with the red Kookaburra. The visibility is perfect. The red and white balls pick up the colour of the grass after becoming older. But here there is no difficulty in picking the ball. However, batsmen will have problems if a pacer bowls up,” said Saha.

Bhawanipore seamer Ayan Bhattacharya, who claimed six wickets in the second innings, became successful after hitting the right length. “The pink ball moves naturally. So it is important to pitch it up and make the batsman play. I never thought I would get to play multi-day cricket under lights,” said the 21-year-old.

The umpires also gave the thumbs up to the pink ball. “We did not expect it to be so hard after 57 overs. It is perfectly visible, you can feel the seam and it looks like a new one,” said umpire Premdip Chatterjee.

Since the ball kept its shine on both sides, both Premdip and his on-field colleague Abhijit Bhattacharya were amused when bowlers asked them which side of the ball they should polish.

Test cricketer-turned-television commentator Debang Gandhi, who had a discussion with sports goods manufacturer Kookaburra Group’s managing director Brett Elliot during the match, pointed out that the pink ball was in the evolution phase. “During the Adelaide Test (between Australia and New Zealand) the ball had white and green seam. Now it has black seam for better visibility. That time it had two coats of lacquer on it and now it has four. Maybe that’s why the ball is lasting so long and swinging more. I am sure they will keep working on it to make it even better,” said Gandhi.

It is expected that Kookaburra will receive inputs from various players to make the ball more suitable for Indian conditions, including hard surfaces and the dew factor (in day-night matches during winters).