November 13 (India Today) – In what will be India’s 540th Test, Virat Kohli and Co. will create history in Kolkata on November 22 as the 1st players from the country to feature in a Pink ball Test match. India are the only major Test-playing nation to have not played a day-night Test and for their opponents Bangladesh it will also mark their debut with the pink ball on the international stage. After years of resistance against playing a day-night Test, India finally agreed to try out the pink ball after new BCCI president Sourav Ganguly took matters into his own hands and Kohli readily agreed to the proposal.
Only a handful of Indian players – Mohammed Shami, Rohit Sharma etc. – have played with a pink ball before. But even that particular ball was manufactured by Kookaburra. As all Test cricket played in India since 1994 has been played with an SG (Sanspareils Greenlands) ball, the BCCI decided to hand the responsibility to the domestic maker for the upcoming historic Test rather than going for their Australian competitor.
To help our readers understand much better what goes into the making of a pink ball and how is it different from the traditional red and white balls used in Tests and ODIs respectively India Today visited the SG manufacturing plant in Meerut which was tasked with preparing and delivery of the pink ball for the Eden Gardens Test. While we covered the whole manufacturing process right from the leather to the packaging of the ball, India Today also talked in detail to SG Marketing Director and the 3rd-generation scion of the family-owned SG company, Paras Anand, regarding what went into the making of a pink ball.
SG vs Dukes vs Kookaburra
First of all, it is necessary to underline the fact that today Test cricket is played with 3 different balls across the planet – SG, Dukes and Kookaburra, while the latter holds a monopoly when it comes to international limited-overs cricket all over the world primarily due to the fact that the Australian company was the inventor of the white cricket ball. The SG ball is primarily only used in India while Dukes provides balls for Test matches held in England and West Indies. In matches played outside India, England and West Indies, Kookaburra is the only ball used in Tests.
Making of the ball
Geographical monopolies aside, there are other major differences among the 3 manufacturers when it comes to the making of the cricket ball. All the 3 kinds of balls have 6 rows (3 on each side) of stitches around the ‘lip’ (central seam) of the ball. But the similarities end here.
While Dukes and SG use hand-stitching for all 6 rows, Kookaburra uses manual stitching only for the 2 rows of inner/central seam. The outer 4 rows in a Kookaburra ball are stitched with the help of machines.
Also, whereas in SG and Dukes balls all 6 rows run across the 2 hemispheres, in the case of Kookaburra the outer 4 rows don’t and this is exactly the reason why the seam of the Australian manufacturer flattens out faster in comparison to its Indian and English counterparts where the seam remains firm after repeated beatings from the batsmen.
Okay, but what about the Pink ball? How is it different from the red and white ones?
As pointed out by Paras, the ‘SG Pink is sitting right between the red and white ball technologies’. To understand the notion, we will have to understand the manufacturing processes of the respective ball categories. For the Red ball, SG use dyed leather (just like dyeing a fabric) to bring out the bright red colour of the ball. Apart from this, the red ball is also known for it’s more pronounced seam (due to the hand-stitching process) in comparison the white variant where the seam is intentionally kept not that prominent as in the words of Paras, ‘you won’t be able to hit more sixes in the shorter formats as it’s a batsman’s game’. This hardened seam not only helps pace bowlers utilise reverse-swing once the ball gets old, but it also helps finger-spinners get a firm grip on the ball which is required to impart the revolutions they need to extract maximum turn from the pitch.
But for the pink ball, dyeing the leather doesn’t work as the lighter colour doesn’t absorb very well into leather. This has induced SG to go for pigmentation (covering the leather with colour coating) – a process that is similar to what is applied for the white balls.
Explaining further Paras adds: ‘for the red ball, we use dyed leather and our key feature: prominent seam and the fact that bowlers are able to reverse-swing with the seam helping the spinners also in the number of revolutions they get. On the white ball, the seam is not so prominent as you won’t be able to hit more sixes in the shorter formats as it’s a batsman’s game. But the white colour is again the pigment process as used in the pink ball.
For the pink, the leather colouring process is similar to white but the other features (prominent seam) are similar to the red. But the pink ball also has the prominent seam feature similar to that of its red coloured cousin. That is the reason, the pink ball was said to be a mix of red and white ball technologies.
“You start by putting a coat on it and then you process it and then it goes back after certain processes (there is some sort of wear and tear once you process it on the floor), then it goes back again into the process of pigmentation,” explained Paras.
SG has already delivered the 6 dozen pink balls they were asked by the BCCI. But concerns regarding the unknown remain. A number of Indian players had complained about the Kookaburra pink ball when it was employed during 3 seasons of the Duleep Trophy before being discontinued this year. Lack of reverse-swing, spin and difficulty to spot the ball during the twilight period were some of the chief concerns of Kuldeep Yadav, Dinesh Karthik and others. Paras and SG are, however, confident that they have managed to overcome the deficiencies reported while conceding that player feedback is very important to deliver the perfect Test match ball.
With the SG Pink all set to undergo its most stern test yet during India’s maiden day-night Test, it remains to be seen whether Paras and SG can deliver on their promise of allaying the fears that had cropped up in players’ minds before. No matter what happens at the Eden Gardens, the next few days could decide the future of day-night Test cricket in India.