To reduce the lopsidedness of the pink-ball day-night Tests, where bowlers have had an advantage, Sanspareils Greenlands (SG) has started working on a “new technique” that will reduce the extra gloss on the ball while retaining its colour. Paras Anand, the marketing director of SG, is hopeful that the experiment, if successful, will bring more parity between bat and ball. An extra coat of lacquer is used on the pink ball to make it glossy which helps visibility.
“We have already started working on that. There are newer techniques of getting (retaining) the colour on the ball and that new technique will reduce the gloss on it and the gloss obviously is resulting in the ball moving faster off the deck. That work is already going on,” Anand told The Indian Express. “Once it is ready, once it is tried and tested, we will definitely talk about it (sharing details about the new technique),” he added.
SG, the BCCI’s official ball supplier, has accelerated the ball manufacturing process through this new technique after the third Test between India and England in Ahmedabad which ended inside two days.
A rank turner was prepared for the third Test but the pink ball mostly skidded off the surface. As Virat Kohli said post-match, 21 out of 30 wickets had been accounted for by straight deliveries.
“Bizarre game… I have never been part of a Test match where things have moved so quickly,” the India captain had said at the post-match presentation. “I’d say one element was the ball – the plastic coating there gathers pace off the wicket – to be brutally honest. Both sides struggled with that throughout the game,” said England skipper Joe Root.
SG has taken note. “Now this issue has suddenly come up post this Test in Ahmedabad, that people are saying the ball was doing a bit more off the surface. This is the feedback we did not get after the first game (against Bangladesh in November 2019), which got over in two days and one session in Kolkata. (But) now the issue has come up, and once the series is over we will be in touch with the BCCI. But we have started looking on how to tackle this issue, if we can work on the way we are preparing the ball and if we can maybe ensure that at least (we) get as close as it can get (to the red ball),” Anand said.
Since its inception in 2015, 16 day-night Tests have been played so far, a couple of them getting over in two days with four matches finishing in three days. Be it seam or spin, bowlers by and large have dominated pink-ball Tests.
In December last year, the Australia versus India pink ball Test in Adelaide was over on the third afternoon, with the visitors getting bundled out for 36 in their second innings and Australian seamers Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins sharing nine wickets between them.
Curtain was lowered on the India-England third Test in Ahmedabad early into the final session on the second day, with spinners bagging 28 out of 30 wickets that fell in the game.
The pink-ball, unlike its red counterpart, is still a work in progress. “See, initially when we were given a brief for the pink ball; two things were very critical. One was that the ball should retain the colour for 80 overs so that visibility is not an issue under lights. The other thing was that the ball should have the seam and overall playability like a red ball, like how a red ball is able to last 80 overs in a Test match. So those were the two main parameters we were initially targeting for and that has been achieved,” Anand said, adding: “Whether it is Joe Root or the Indian team players, they have raised it (the issue) and now we are going to address it.”
At a recent press conference, Ravichandran Ashwin mentioned how the odds have been stacked in favour of the bowlers in pink-ball cricket. “If you give a little bit of favour stacked towards the bowlers, this is what might happen. When there is a little bit of advantage to the bowlers, where it swings more or seams more, the margin of error for the batter is so little.”
At the same time, he admitted that familiarity with the pink ball will help players adapt better. “You play more and more and get used to it, the players are going to adapt better.”