Even a week ago Google predicted the name of a popular musical band, a metro line in New Delhi, a Bollywood movie, and a colour when typed pink in the search bar. But as we approach November 22 – the day that will be written in bold letters in the history books of Indian cricket – the suggestion of a cricket ball has climbed up rapidly with the same search, for obvious reasons. In the monopoly of red, the pink ball will make its first appearance in a Test match in India when Virat Kohli's side locks horns with Bangladesh at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
But why pink? Baby pink, berry pink, salmon pink, watermelon pink, fuschia – It's hard to state with certainty that the law makers took all these variants of pink into consideration before choosing it as 'the colour' of a cricket ball for a Day/Night Test. They basically wanted a colour which would be visible at night and one that would last the test of 80 overs. The red ball failed the first parameter and the white one did not stand a chance to clear the second one. So in came, the mixture of two colours – the pink ball.
The change of colour brought in change of characters in the cricket ball. The ball started to dart around more and for a longer period of time. The first ever Day/Night Test between Australia and New Zealand ended inside 3 days with none of the sides crossing the 250-run mark. Records of batsmen have improved since then but the pink ball's trait of swinging more for long hasn't changed.
"To make it easy to spot under lights, extra lacquer is applied over the pink ball so that it shines more. Naturally, the shine allows it to swing more and because of the extra lacquer, the shine also lasts longer than a red ball," Paras Anand, the Marketing Director of sports goods manufacturer SG, told Hindustan Times.
The shine on a new red ball lasts for roughly around 60-70 minutes but in case of a new pink ball, it can last well over a session, giving fast bowlers the feel of a new ball for about 30 overs, which often brings the downfall of the batsmen.
The logic of making the ball brighter and shinier, however, came after complaints from batsmen in first-class cricket. When the pink balls were tested, the batsmen had problems in sighting it. The bowlers did not enjoy it much either as the ball started to lose its colour and turn greyish after 30-40 overs.
"The colouring process takes place in phases in order to maintain the pink colour. The red ball is made out of dyed leather. We take the raw leather, dye it once and leave it. But because pink is lighter, the leather is not able to absorb colour in the dying process. So the only way you can have the pink colour is by putting colouring pigment on the leather. We coat the leather with the pigment after the dying process.
"The pink colouring pigment is again added on the leather before the final stitching takes place. Some coating is done after the ball is stitched. Roughly it takes about 7-8 days to make a pink ball, which double the time we take to make a red one," explained Anand.
The extra layer of colouring gives it a darker shade of pink, the watermelon pink to be exact. No wonder R Ashwin confused it with orange during one of the training sessions in Indore in the lead up to the India-Bangladesh Day/Night Test. "Sometimes I don't understand if it's orange or pink, still coming to terms with that," said Ashwin.
While more conventional swing will aid the fast bowlers, the pink ball can create troubles for the likes of Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav, who reply a lot on reverse swing with the old ball.
"Reverse swing probably will be difficult… We've seen Indian players start working on a red ball after 15-20 overs. They make one side heavier and keep the other side rough for the ball to reverse. That will be difficult in pink ball. The fielders will have to work very hard to maintain the shiny and rough sides of the ball," Anand added.
The condition of the pitch and outfield too play a major role in the Day/Night Test.
In the 11 Day/Night Tests with the pink ball, 257 wickets have been taken by the fast bowlers. The spinners could only manage to take 95. That, however, could change in Kolkata with the debut of SG pink balls, which have a visibly prominent seam than the Kookaburra and Duke ones.
"With the seam being prominent for about 70-80 overs, the spinners will obviously be in the game throughout. Don't be surprised if you see an Ashwin or a Jadeja picking up bag full of wickets in a session," said Anand.