“The pink ball swings around a bit in the initial 8-10 overs, and after that there is absolutely no assistance for fast bowlers. One of the biggest drawbacks is that there is no reverse swing happening with this ball. So fast bowlers will struggle to take wickets. If you compare it with the traditional red ball, it reverses after 40-45 overs. So that’s a more potent tool on the abrasive tracks here in India,” India Blue’s fast bowler Pankaj Singh said after the third Duleep Trophy encounter earlier this week.
Going by the three Duleep Trophy games played here at the Greater Noida Stadium, the shiny pink Kookaburra ball has not aided reverse swing.
Reverse swing is cricket’s subtle art, and over the years fast bowlers have used it with considerable success in India. Former India fast bowler Zaheer Khan was one of the best practioners of this art. At home, he was always a handful, because of his ability to get the ball to reverse swing early. Perhaps the most devastating spell of reverse swing bowling in recent times was orchestrated by South Africa’s Dale Steyn in the Nagpur Test match six seasons ago.
Kookaburra’s chief spokesman Shannon Gill gives a plausible explanation for this phenomenon.
“Since the games were being played under lights, our primary concern was to address the issue of visibility. Hence, our biggest challenge while making pink ball was to retain its shine for a longer duration as compared to the traditional red ball,” he said.
A shiny hard pink ball meant more lacquer and better visibility. But the flip side was that the ball would not get scruffed up as easily compared to the red ball, and therefore it would not aid reverse swing.
“This was the dilemma we were in while making the ball,” he noted.
Gill was not particularly worried about the pink ball’s lack of reverse swing. He insisted these were early days, and the ball would go through several stages of evolution. But the challenge ahead of the Melbourne-based firm was in striking the fine balance and getting the pink ball to behave and perform like the red ball.
Work in progress
“It’s too early to talk about it’s disadvantages. From what I have heard, the ball has played out pretty well in India. There are bound to be some issues, but we will be in a better position to address them once the BCCI submits its report. Another aspect is that this ball in this current state is not the final product. Our R&D team is constantly working and the whole process will take time,” he added.
Despite concerns over reverse swing, the pink ball in its current state has passed the test of visibility and durability. Gill attributed it to the change of seam that was used during the inaugural Day/Night Test match between Australia and New Zealand.
“We have changed the seam from green to black to help visibility under lights. We had already tried the black seams during the Sheffield Shield games here in Australia last season,” he explained.
Once the Duleep Trophy ends, there is not much clarity on whether the BCCI intends to continue with the pink ball experiment in the near future. At the moment though, Gill and his team in Kookaburra are adopting a simple “wait and watch” approach.