India will make their foray into day-night Test when they take on Bangladesh in the second Test of the series in Kolkata. It will be Bangladesh’s pink-ball debut as well. While the Eden Test has elicited considerable excitement, it has generated hype as well as intrigue, especially around the pink ball. What is a pink ball? How is it different from a red ball? How will it behave? How is it different from the pink Kookaburra ball which was experimented for the first time in the Indian domestic arena in the Duleep Trophy for three seasons?
This will be the first time the pink SG ball will be used in top-level cricket. Firstpost caught up with SG marketing director to understand the physics, dynamics and behaviour of the SG pink ball which is going to be used in the first Test between India and Bangladesh in Kolkata.
How different is pink ball from the red ball?
The difference is that the red SG ball’s colour comes by dyeing it, similar to how you dye various fabrics. In the case of the pink ball, there is a (colouring) pigment which is coated in layers and cured. That is the basic difference in how the colour comes on the ball and that is what we are all talking about different colour.
The manufacturing process is the same. The difference is with colour. How do you get that colour and ensure that it stays for long? As I said, the red is dyed and after that, we don’t do anything else to bring colour to it. But in the case of pink, it is dyed but the colour is not bright enough to use it under lights so we have a pigment coat and it’s done in stages, you put one layer then cure it and then another one and cure it and then you cover it with a clear coat, that’s the difference how the colour comes. In red ball, the colour comes straight, put it in a dye, it absorbs the red colour which is good enough and there is no other process done on it. It’s ready the next day. For pink, just to prepare the colour, the process takes six days.
In terms of characteristics, what’s the difference between the two balls?
Because of more shine on the pink ball, there is obviously more swing and for a longer duration because it stays new for a bit longer than the red ball. And beyond that, everyone knows that the Indian fast bowlers have been able to shine it on one side and swing it later on once it’s been used for 30-40 overs. In the case of the pink ball, because of the extra shine, it will be difficult to create that difference between both the sides (shiny and rough) of the ball to get that reverse swing. So that will be a challenge. It’s not that it’s not possible but it will have to be prepared differently.
What characteristics of red ball will pink SG retain?
The seam. The seam is absolutely the same that we have created for this Test match. The red and the pink have the same seam and the core. So the shape retention, the hardness, everything that we worked on the red ball has been passed on to the pink ball.
Players who have played with the ball in the practice session have said that the lateral movement is big. How long will the lateral movement continue?
In red ball, the ball stays new for about 15-20 overs depending on the pitch and ground condition. In the case of the pink ball, it lasts a bit longer, say 20-25 overs. Because of the shine, there will be more movement, that is what the players are saying. That’s the nature of the ball, because of the colour, how it’s protected, how we’ve coated the ball.
What’s the reason for the swing?
To protect the colour. You coat it more with the shiny layer.
What kind of coat is used?
It’s a Clear PU coat that we put on the ball. It’s a protection layer. When you paint, it’s a colour, this is not a colour, it’s clear, so that gives us gloss and that helps in retaining the colour. The whole idea with a pink ball — why you need grass, lush outfield, layers of protections — is because it has to be used for 80 overs. The white ball is used for only 20 overs in T20s and 25 in ODIs. But here you have to use it for 80 so there are other ground conditions which are critical along with the cricket ball.
How different is this from the Kookaburra pink balls?
The seam is different. It’s prominent in SG and lasts longer.
The players who played with the Kokuburra pink said that the ball went soft and it was difficult to sight. Have you looked at all these parameters while making this ball?
Yes, we’ve ensured that this ball will stay hard for almost 80 overs. And also the colour we’ve put on it, like the layers we are talking about, we have worked on that also so that it’s visible for 80 overs.
What improvements have you made in SG balls that make them different from Kookaburra?
The main difference is the seam. We were given a brief that the seam should be like the SG red ball.
How much reverse swing will the bowlers get with his ball?
Not much. But because the seam is prominent, they will be able to use the seam. We’ve seen that our bowlers Shami, Ishant and Umesh, they’ve been able to do more with the seam than the visiting sides. The seam is still the same so they will be able to do more with it…Hopefully…Fingers crossed (laughs).
How is the ball expected to behave session wise?
It’s difficult to say because there are other conditions also whether it’s overcast or how much moisture is there in the air but whatever we’ve seen so far, initially it will swing, there will be a good amount of swing. But as it gets old, probably reverse swing will not be that much maybe later in the day when its 40-50 overs old. There could be some reverse swing if they are able to maintain shine on one side and make it rough.
The spinners found it a bit tough with the Kookaburra ball. How much will it help the spinners?
There will be assistance for sure since the seam is pronounced.
What about the dew factor?
I am sure you would have watched a lot of ODI and T20 games. The dew does play a role there also and people have gotten used to it. If there is dew…there is dew. You wipe the ball, clean the ball, you still try to grip, spin and swing it, so that is a challenge and you have to live with it.
What were your biggest challenges while making this ball?
The biggest challenge was ensuring the same seam as the red ball and the other was ensuring that the colour lasts for 80 overs.
How did you test the ball?
We’ve done hundreds of tests in toughest of conditions, hardest of wickets. Just to make sure that it goes through these rigorous tests and then it gets to a Test match condition like Eden Gardens, nice grass on the wicket, good outfield. So, when it has passed those rigorous tests then it should definitely perform better at that level.
Did a lot of time go into training the personnel?
We’ve been doing this research and development exercise since 2017. We started working on it in 2016. The BCCI was constantly in touch with us — what’s the progress, where has it reached, how are you placed — and before the series they asked whether you guys are ready, we said yes. Most of it was hit and trial. We were trying doing some changes to it, how we will be preparing it, how we will be curing it. So that was the R&d…Okay, this is the right combination, this is how we will do it, this is how we clean the leather, this is how we cure the leather, this is how we will put the pigment, this is how we will put another coat.
When were you told about the requirements of the SG pink ball for the Test?
How many balls did they require?
They had initially requested six dozen. But they needed more for practising in Indore and Kolkata so overall we supplied 10 dozen.
How challenging was it preparing these balls in a short period of time?
The basic inputs were there. That’s about 60-70 percent job done. If the inputs weren’t there then obviously we would have said that we were not ready but because the inputs and materials were there, it wasn’t that challenging.
Are you planning to manufacture the pink ball in large quantities now?
Yes, definitely we are. Once this game is played and accepted well, there will be more requirements at the first-class, first division and even club level.
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