All the talk ahead of India’s second Test against Bangladesh, staring on November 22 at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, has centered around pink cricket balls. And rightly so. The contest on the field has not really been competitive and the focus has naturally shifted to the fact that this will be the first day-night Test to be played in India.
Since before the start of this two-matches series, players from both teams have been sharing their thoughts on the pink ball and how they expect it to behave. Day-night Tests have been a part of international cricket for a while now, but this will be the first time players from India and Bangladesh will be playing the longest format under lights. And so, there is plenty of curiosity among the cricketers as well as the fans in the country regarding the pink ball.
Will the hardness last longer than the red ball? Will it assist bowlers or make life easier for the batsmen? What are it’s differences from other cricket balls and how will they impact the game?
To get a better understanding of these things, Scroll.in spoke to Wasiullah Khan, the chief ball inspector of Meerut-based Sanspareil Greenlands (commonly known as SG), the company that manufactures the Test match balls used in India.
Khan is a former first-class cricketer and played five Ranji Trophy matches for Uttar Pradesh.
“I’m 73-years-old and have been with SG for about 45 years. I’m the Production Director at SG, but I mainly look at the manufacturing of cricket bats and balls,” he said.
Khan is the last word for the SG balls that are used for Test matches in India. Ahead of the upcoming historic day-night Test in Kolkata, he shared his thoughts on what people should expect from the pink ball encounter.
Excerpts from the interview:
What are the differences between a red and pink ball?
The biggest difference in the red and pink ball is in terms of the leather. There is no difference in the core of the ball [inside quilt], which is made of cotswool and cork. There is also no difference in the manner in which we stitch the two balls. The only difference is that the red ball is stitched with a white thread while the pink ball is stitched with a black thread.
We use wax on the red ball. As the match progresses, the ball absorbs the wax and the players are able to reverse swing the ball by rubbing and maintaining one side. Aside from allowing the ball to swing, the wax is what really gives the red ball its colour. While the wax gives the red ball its cherry colour, it would turn the pink ball black. Which is why we can’t use wax on pink balls. Instead, a PU based coat [ball polish] is used on the pink ball which prevents abrasions on the ball and helps maintain its colour till 40 overs.
The balls that are made for Test matches have the highest quality core and thread. These are expensive and imported.
Is the seam on a red ball any different from that on a pink one?
Yes, there is a difference. The seam of the pink ball is more pronounced. It is an equal mix of synthetic and linen, while the seam on the red ball is entirely synthetic. This difference is maintained due to the time of the day in which red and pink balls are used. The red ball is used in games that end before sunset, while pink ball cricket will start in the afternoon with half of the game being played after the dew sets in. The linen in the seam absorbs the due and allows for a better grip.
The PU coat I mentioned earlier, which Virat Kohli, Ravichandran Ashwin and others have been referring to as lacquer, is the polish we use on the ball. This polish/lacquer is nitrocellulose based.
Will the pink ball offer extra assistance to the bowlers?
There’s no doubt that there will be more than usual swing in the starting overs. The first 10-15 overs will see plenty of swing. This is because the lacquer won’t come off easily and the ball will remain new for a longer time. Also, the polish on the ball will make it shoot faster off the wicket.
The pink ball will assist the spinners as well. If you notice the Kookaburra ball, which is stitched by a machine, it doesn’t help spinners much after 40-45 overs. We have kept the seam pronounced in our balls, which are hand-stitched, so that the spinners can get good grip, turn and bounce. They will get all this easily even after 45-50 overs.
Are there any differences between red and pink balls in terms of weight and dimension?
As per the cricket laws stated by the Marylebone Cricket Club, any international and first-class ball – red, pink or even white – has to weigh between 156 and 162 grams. It will be rejected even if it’s one gram over or under this scale. The leather used in all three balls is the same. The only big difference is that we use lacquer on the white and pink balls so that they don’t lose their colour, while using wax on the red ones.
An umpire has ‘go gauge’ and ‘no gauge’ circles with him at all times. These are used to check whether the dimensions of the ball are proper. The ‘no gauge’ has a circumference of 71 millimeters, while the ‘go gauge’ has a circumference of 73 millimeters. Any ball – red, white or pink – has to be between these two ranges at all times. It can only be persisted with if it fits through the ‘go gauge’ and doesn’t through the ‘no gauge’. We try to keep our balls at 72 millimeters.
The reason why white balls travel faster and further off the bat is because a bouncier core is used for them. This is why a white ball may seem lighter when held in the hand, but it actually has the same weight as a red or pink one. White balls have a bouncier core because people want to watch fours and sixes in a limited overs game.
So will the pink ball tilt the balance in favour of the bowlers?
Batting will definitely be a challenge against a pink ball. Batsmen who look at the ball closely from the hand and off the wicket will be more likely to succeed. Bowlers have a 10-15% bigger advantage with the pink ball than they have with any other.