The Eden Gardens Test from November 22 between India and Bangladesh has already created a lot of excitement and buzz for the sole reason that the fixture would see the two sides embracing pink for the first time -- playing a day-night match with a pink SG ball.
While the fans and players are fairly new to the concept of pink-ball cricket, the idea of introducing it is not. The pink ball was first developed by Kookaburra back in 2006 for a cancer charity event. It was however in January 2008 when the first-ever pink-ball cricket match was played between two Australian women’s state teams -- Queensland and Western Australia.
After its development in 2006, over the course of the next nine years, Kookaburra went through 16 different shades of pink during their manufacturing process before finally settling on the shade that was used in the Test between Australia and New Zealand in Adelaide in 2015 -- the first day-night Test in history.
Pink, however, was not the initial choice. Only after yellow and fluorescent orange were rejected for being difficult to pick up, pink was accepted as the preferred colour.
The ball had even gone through changes and innovations since its introduction in international cricket. Initially, the pink ball had the seam combination like that of a traditional white ball -- a green outer seam and white inner seam. However, players’ feedback -- that the combination was not contrasting with pink and was difficult to pick up -- had prompted the manufacturer to change to a black seam, which is currently used and has received positive reviews from the players.
Pink-ball cricket offers more than just a mere change in colour as its usage can prompt many strategic changes. Aside from the seam color, the pink ball has extra lacquer which is opined by players and experts alike to result in swinging more than a traditional red ball. The ball offers more swing in the initial 10-15 overs but reduces the chances of reverse swing as the extra lacquer takes time to wear off. There is also the added challenge for the batsmen of the pink ball swinging substantially more under lights, especially if the ball is still on the shiny side.
Just like its new features, the pink ball has offered some interesting statistics in Tests so far. The pink ball has now been used in 11 day-night Tests and interestingly, all those matches produced a result.
There is substantial precedent of wrist-spinners being more successful in a pink-ball Test than finger-spinners. West Indies leggie Devendra Bishoo recorded his best figures in an innings when he returned figures of eight for 49 against Pakistan during their 56-run loss in Dubai in October 2016. In the same game, Pakistan leg-spinner Yasir Shah also shone, bagging a fifer in the first innings before taking two more in the second. It would therefore not be surprising to see India fielding Kuldeep Yadav, a left-arm chinaman bowler -- the only wrist-spinner available in either squad -- to get an edge over Bangladesh at the Eden Gardens.
Even though fast bowlers enjoy the initial spells with the pink ball and under lights, the batsmen who can see through those spells can go on to score big. Pakistan’s Azhar Ali’s unbeaten 302 against West Indies, England opener Alastair Cook’s 243 against the same opponents and Sri Lanka opener Dimuth Karunaratne’s 196 against Pakistan are proof of how openers can cash in as the game moves on.
Eight of 12 Test playing nations have already familiarised themselves with pink-ball cricket. And it can be said that as much as the spectators, it will offer a totally different experience for the players.