Pronounced seam of pink ball will reduce dew's impact, says SG marketing director

The challenge will be to make sure the pink ball retains its shine for a long period and favourable ground conditions will be the key.

The pink ball was tried out in the Duleep Trophy in the year 2016. Here, India Green captain Suresh Raina and wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel examine the ball during a match against India Red.   -  AFP

Though using the SG red ball in first-class cricket, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had preferred Kookaburra when it came to pink-ball cricket in the domestic circuit. The first experiment with the pink ball was done by the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) after Sourav Ganguly had taken over the reins from Jagmohan Dalmiya.

In 2016 the Duleep Trophy too was played with the Kookaburra pink ball. But the SG pink ball is set to make its debut when India takes on Bangladesh in its maiden day-night Test at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata from November 22.

With Test cricket losing popularity in certain parts of the world, the ICC introduced day-night Test cricket in a bid to revive the format. Since the conventional red ball can’t be used under lights, they trialled a pink ball.

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India captain Virat Kohli was averse to a proposal to play a day-night Test against the West Indies in Rajkot in October 2018 reasoning that the team had no experience with the pink ball.

But all it took to change the Indian skipper’s view was one short meeting with the new BCCI president, Ganguly.

Paras Anand, marketing director at SG, said the company was asked, just before Bangladesh confirmed that it would play a day-night Test, to produce six dozen SG pink balls and deliver them by November 6. “We have been working on the pink ball for almost three years now... we knew that as and when India plays a day-night Test, we at SG will be expected to come up with the pink ball and that’s what happened,” Anand told Sportstar.

Australia pace spearhead Pat Cummins has said while there’s a particular way of bowling with different balls, the conditions ultimately hold sway. Here, Cummins is in action with the pink ball in the Brisbane Test of January 2019 in which he demolished Sri Lanka with a 10-wicket match haul.   -  AFP

 

“There’s a slight difference in the way the leather is produced... the pink colour is processed differently than red. But as far as the seam, hardness and shape are concerned, we are trying to ensure that it is as close to the SG red as possible,” he added.

The challenge will be to make sure the pink ball retains its shine for a long period and Anand conceded that favourable ground conditions will be key. “The outfield needs to have a decent amount of grass and we will need a supportive wicket. Sometimes you have a pitch that’s dry and starts turning from the first day... that doesn’t help.”

Anand is confident about the SG pink ball withstanding the rigours of cricket under lights, having tested it in-house extensively. “We have tested the ball to check if it can last 80 overs,” he said. “The ball has been put under a tremendous amount of stress and the results have been pretty good.

"We have taken feedback from the bowlers and the batsmen, on the colour, the shape, and the seam of the ball. Dew, too, is a factor that tends to affect a bowler’s ability to grip the ball, but the SG pink has a much more pronounced seam which will make life easy for the bowlers,” he added.

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Australia pace spearhead Pat Cummins, in an interview with this publication last year, had said while there’s a particular way of bowling with different balls, the conditions ultimately hold sway.

“The main reason is that the different balls come with very different wickets. In dry conditions such as in India, the ball rarely swings conventionally, so a lot of the time you just try to hit the wicket hard with the seam straight up hoping for some movement off the wicket.

“In England, if the conditions are right the Dukes ball will swing a lot more than a Kooka. Sometimes it is about adjusting the seam and your wrist to try and control the ball from swinging too far,” Cummins had pointed out.

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Shannon Gill, Kookaburra spokesperson, played down concerns over the colour of the ball affecting spin and swing. “With the pink ball, the lacquer is actually the same as for the red ball. The only differences are the pink finish that goes on the leather to ensure its visibility under lights, and the black seam that creates the contrast,” Gill said.

“There is some belief that the pink finish helps swing early, but this is really hard to quantify or be definitive about.

“Like with any cricket ball it is pitch and weather conditions, and of course the skills of the bowler, that have far more influence on the ability of the ball to swing than the ball itself,” he added.

Gill refused to draw comparisons between the SG and Kookaburra pink ball “without knowing the process of how the pink SG is made or having seen it in use.” But he said, “the SG ball is the incumbent ball in India so it is understandable they’ve gone with that first. They have a long history in the game in India that we have the utmost respect for.”