Pink-ball, a hit with India’s Corporate and Club cricketers
Pink-ball cricket has ticked all the boxes at Corporate and Club levels in India. After the first pink-ball Test between India and Bangladesh at the Eden Gardens in November 2019, the popularity of the ball has soared across India. According to Paras Anand, Marketing Director, SG Cricket the company has sold around 12,000 SG Pink’s Club grade ball.
Talking to this correspondent Anand said: "It (SG Pink Club grade) is used in a lot of evening games at the Corporate and Club cricket levels. There is a very good demand for this ball. After the pink ball Test match in Kolkata, a lot of evening games under the lights are played with this ball. Most Corporate and Club Twenty20 games were played with white ball, but now 15 to 20 per cent have moved to pink. We could be selling around 12,000 Club grade pink balls. This is all across the country and for most night games in Mumbai, Bangalore and other cities and towns. The club ball is available at a retail price of Rs. 650 or 700 after discount. The demand went up after the Kolkata match two years ago. The amateurs and Corporate people have liked it.’’
India won the only home pink-ball Test in three days. "The feedback was very positive. They (team) were happy with the way the ball helped the seamers. The more they play, they will get used to it. When they play ODIs these days, they don’t have to adjust as much because they have played so much with the white ball under the lights. The same will happen with the pink ball under the lights. The batsman will find ways once he gets used to it,’’ said Anand.
Last month, SG Cricket sent 15 boxes of Test grade to the BCCI’s National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bangalore. And last week, the Meerut-based manufacturer sent 36 balls to the Gujarat Cricket Association for the Test match there.
"We manufacture Test match grade pink balls only when there is a demand. There are some associations which buy this grade to use it in their top division matches. But the demand is not huge. It’s predominantly used for international games. The BCCI would have given it to the England team for practice.’’
Anand revealed that the pink balls are hand-stitched. "It’s a seven-day process to make a single ball. There are 80 stitches in each of the six rows; two rows in the centre of the ball and two each on the sides. The pigment used to colour the ball and the lacquer finish helps to keep the ball in good condition. Heavy dewfall makes it difficult for the bowler to grip the ball, but it’s getting warm in Ahmedabad. It’s the abrasive nature of the pitch that causes the ball to lose its shine, not otherwise.’’
The acceptance of pink ball Test is slow at the international level and it’s just about trying to gain momentum with at least one Test nominated as pink-ball day-night Test. In all, 15 pink ball day-night Tests have been played after Australia and New Zealand played the inaugural one at the Adelaide Oval in the winter of 2015 and Australia won the match by three wickets.
Not a single batsman from either side scored a century. New Zealand’s Tom Latham made 50 off 103 balls and in two hours 16 minutes, and for Australia, Steve Smith made 53 off 114 balls and in three hours and eight minutes, Peter Nevill made 66 off 110 balls and in two hours and 23 minutes. All in the first innings.
With the ball wobbling, batting turned out to be a struggle, but seam bowlers had a field day; Josh Hazelwood took nine wickets, Mitchell Starc three, Trent Boult seven and Doug Bracewell four. The five-day Test ended on the third day!
The story of the pink-ball causes consternation among the batsmen, Australia’s David Warner though has scored 596 runs in six matches, and Smith 502 in seven matches. Australia has played all pink ball with the local Kookaburra ball, while England has played one at home with the Dukes brand.
Anand believes that the pink ball Test matches have a definite future. "Look at the excitement it generated in Kolkata. Even for this game, one is expecting around 50,000 spectators at Motera. It’s good for Test.”
G. Viswanath is an independent sports journalist based in Mumbai. He has been associated with The Hindu Group for over 36 years and has covered domestic, national and international cricket.