You don’t need to rub your eyes and distrust your vision in stupefaction. Nor do we need to rectify the aforementioned statement as majority of us have become aware of the fact that the Gentleman’s Game will undergo a radical revolution come November 27 when Trans-Tasmanian rivals Australia and New Zealand will square off against each other in the third Test of the 3 match Test series at Adelaide Oval. The 138 year long history of Test cricket will embrace a new feature in another 3 weeks’ time. As of yet, Wikipedia defines Test cricket as ‘’Test cricket is played in traditional white clothes and with a red ball’’. The definition will need a slight amendment once the eagerly awaited game commences.
War- Third Test of New Zealand’s tour of Australia 2015.
Battlefield- Adelaide Oval.
Competitors- Australia and New Zealand.
Armament- ‘Pink’ ball.
Over the years, bowlers such as Mitchell Johnson and Trent Boult have tormented batsmen the world over with the red ball in their hand in Tests. That said, a lot of eyes will be transfixed on them whence they unravel the much talked about ‘pink’ ball at Adelaide Oval.
What is the buzz all about? Let’s us get ourselves acquainted with the pink ball before the actual proceedings get underway in the first ever Day/Night Test match on November 27.
Test cricket has been played during day times and with a red ball since 1877. While Test cricket was considered to be the highest form of cricket until the arrival of the 21st century, the attractiveness of Test matches has experienced a dip in recent times following the advent of T20 cricket and highly puffed up T20 leagues like the IPL and Big Bash T20. The ICC like a concerned parent was upset about the progress of the traditional form of the Gentleman’s Game and in pursuit of finding an aid to the diminishing popularity of Test cricket, came upon the idea of introducing Day/Night Test matches that can potentially bring a large chunk of spectators to the stadiums as the foresaid matches would take place during prime time and would appear as an extended form of One Day Internationals.
The pink ball has been brought into the game to do away with the deficiencies of the red ball under floodlights. The quest for a ‘different coloured ball’ gave rise to the idea of developing a pink ball. At first, the ICC did not opt for any particular colour as they were looking for a ball which would be visible under arteficial lights. It could have been any shade; but eventually they decided to bring in the pink ball. Then again, what different feature does it bring to the table?
It uses an additional dye to enhance its brightness which will enable batsmen to see it under the lights.
This massive change however required the ICC to contemplate a wide array of things. Since the red ball provided limited visibility under floodlights, there was a need for an alternative course of action. In 2009, the MCC made a recommendation to try-out the pink ball, following which the ECB and CA extensively tested the damasked ball in their respective First Class structures. Brett Elliot, Managing Director of Kookaburra reckons that the pink ball is now ready for use in international cricket after going through a series of tests and experiments. ‘’The Kookaburra turf pink ball has been extensively tested by the MCC, ECB and CA, and I believe that the ball is ready for an international Test match’’, Elliot told the Sydney Morning Herald in June earlier this year. He further added, ‘’We have also supplied a number of other ICC members like CSA and WICB and they have been equally happy with its performance at the Domestic level’’. Incidentally, the pink ball has cleared the DRS (Decision Review System) checks supervised by the company which is responsible for running the ‘Hawk-eye’, a quintessential component of the DRS. Animation Research (the organization which operates and supplies the DRS technology) has subsequently approved the use of the Pink ball in Day/Night Tests.
Ian Taylor, head of Animation Research believes that despite initial obstacles, the ball promises to ‘deliver’ favourable results once it gets utilised in the forthcoming Australia-New Zealand Test match.
‘’We had a lot of concerns after doing testing down here (in New Zealand), but actually under the conditions that were there and the pitch that was laid it was really encouraging’’, said Taylor in an interview to ESPNcricinfo.com yesterday.
On the one hand when Brett Elliot and Ian Taylor have expressed ambiguity in their words concerning the pink ball, ICC CEO Dave Richardson has lent his support to this latest innovation by saying that there are high chances of the ‘different coloured’ ball being used in all Test matches in the near future. ‘’It may be that we use a different coloured ball for all Tests’’, Richardson was quoted as saying 2 weeks ago. Of late, the recently concluded Test match between Pakistan and England in Abu Dhabi experienced was brought to a premature end as bad light made it difficult for the batting side to see the Red ball under artificial lights. England batting fourth, needed just 99 runs from a maximum of 19 overs to seal the tie. They were well on their way to realize the target having made 74/4 in 11 overs before insufficient light drew a hasty retreat from the game, which would have otherwise gone in England’s favour. Had there been a ‘different coloured’ ball in place at that juncture, such an awkward situation might not have occurred. In the midst of so many speculations about the pink ball, there continue to be restrictions over the red ball under floodlights. This vagueness was echoed in Richardson’s words too when he commented, ‘’It’s not ideal for the game. How we solve it I am not sure. We’ve tried various methods’’. The 56 year old former South African wicketkeeper has also left the door open to allow the possibility of developing a different shade other than pink for Test matches. In an interview given to the Times not long ago, Richardson suggested the use of a ‘’green-yellow’’ ball, clarifying which he stated in a press conference, ‘’I was just talking about a different coloured ball. It can be pink, yellow, green, whatever’- nothing specific’’.
However, there continue to remain a few question marks over the effectiveness of this ball prior to its official unveiling in international cricket. A few months ago, the ball was tested on a plastic pitch under lights where the ball was torn to shreds and was consequently devoured. Following the maiden experiment, it was checked again at Manuka Oval in Canberra during the Prime Ministers XI game and to the inspectors’ dismay, it suffered the same fate. The Pink ball was believed to generate more swing than the Red ball and a certain set of spectators who have witnessed the ball live fear that the use of the Pink ball might tilt the game excessively in a particular side’s favour which in turn may perturb the balance of the match. Every revolution comes with its own set of pros and cons. When Australian business tycoon, Kerry Packer set up the World Series Cricket in 1977, it shook the cricketing world and ushered in an indomitable revolution that would change the way the game was played. People found pleasure in ridiculing his brainchild by calling it by names such as the ‘Packer-Circus’ but ‘wicked’ history testifies to the fact that his idea of familiarising the staunch conservative cricketing fraternity with coloured clothing and floodlights set the template for what is today known as ‘modern day cricket’. So, even if the proposed pink ball ends up being on the wrong side of the table, it will open new avenues for further experimentation in the coming days. Esteemed American abolitionist-orator Wendell Philips grasped the essence of the aforementioned line when he said, ‘’Revolution never goes backwards’’. Indeed, international cricket is keenly waiting to welcome the pink ball with open arms in spite of the cloud of controversies surrounding it.
After all, the ‘red letter (pink leather rather) day’ is not far away!!