When the pink ball was first used in a Test match between Australia and New Zealand a couple of years ago, some termed it as “the greatest innovation” since the introduction of Test cricket.
The main aim of day-night Tests was to attract crowds who could watch the match after office hours, and the pink ball meant players could see under lights. The revolution became an astounding success as Adelaide recorded a spike in attendance during the third Test between Australia and New Zealand in 2015.
Manufacturers have since made sincere efforts in improving the condition of the ball with feedback from the players. For example, the colour of the seam was changed from green-white to black on the advice of Steven Smith, the Australian skipper.
Since then, the ongoing second Test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka Test in Dubai on October 6 is the sixth such game. Shannon Gill, Kookaburra’s communication manager, was more than willing to speak on the evolution of the pink ball, and Gill said that the latest upgrade is the strengthening of the seam.
“From last year we have worked to strengthen the seam, finding stronger black thread to use,” Gill told Wisden India from his base in Melbourne. “So far we have had good feedback that the seam has stayed harder for longer than the earlier versions of the pink ball.”
Pakistan played their first day-night pink-ball Test last October when they took on Windies and got acquainted with the change in time for their second pink-ball Test, against Australia in Brisbane in December.
“Since last year’s Dubai Test there have been two Tests in Australia with pink balls (Australia v Pakistan in Brisbane and Australia v South Africa in Adelaide). On both occasions, the games were exciting and gave something for both pace and spin bowlers.”
Gill shot down the impression that the pink ball is not conducive for spinners.
“After the Dubai Test last year with Yasir Shah and Devendra Bishoo’s performances we have seen a trend that spinners that bowl well have prospered, which has allayed the early fears that the pink ball would not be good for spinners.
“Nathan Lyon bowled particularly well in Adelaide and just this week India A defeated New Zealand A in India with a pink ball, with spinners taking the bulk of the wickets.”
The pink ball, Gill said, was also good for reverse swing.
“We have also seen seam bowlers finding ways to reverse swing the ball, which was something that wasn’t happening during the early years of pink-ball cricket,” he pointed out.
Kookaburra have promised further improvement on the pink ball with work on the coating. “There are other subtle innovations to the pink coating that we have been constantly working on, but nothing major – just things to ensure the ball stays visible. We are also continuing to work on other innovations to keep the ball harder for longer that we will be trialling in the near future,” said Gill.
There are also complaints that the pink ball gets softer in the rain and under the influence of dew. “Dew and rain are things that affect a pink ball just like they do a red ball so there are always natural obstacles for any cricket ball. An example is the abrasiveness of a pitch that will affect any cricket ball. But this effect is amplified when it comes to a pink ball compared to a red ball.
“This is why our research and development team work constantly on the pink coating.
Such is the impact of pink ball cricket that even the Ashes will see one game this season with Adelaide hosting the second Test in December.
“It’s exciting that the first Ashes pink ball Test will be played in December. There is also a proposed day-night match between South Africa and Zimbabwe, which may use a pink Kookaburra,” gushed Gill.
“We’re excited to be involved as each country takes on the new innovation and we’re looking forward to working with countries who haven’t yet but are keen to try.”