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What is cricket’s pink ball challenge about? (Relevant for GS Prelims, GS Mains Paper III; Science & Technology)

For starters, why the colour pink?
Pink was the consensus colour after manufacturers tried optic yellow and bright orange, which were easy to spot on the grass and by fielders taking high catches, but which batsmen said merged with brownish patches on the pitch. On the colour of the seam, manufacturer Kookaburra switched from dark green and white to black after former Australia captain Steve Smith, who was part of the first-ever pink ball Test between Australia and New Zealand in November 2015, said the seam needed to be more visible.

Are pink balls made differently?
Red, white, pink — all cricket balls are made of cork, rubber and woollen yarn, using similar production techniques. The colour of the dye on the tanned cowhide, and the difference in ‘finishing’ decide in which format a ball is used. The conventional red Test ball is dipped in grease so that water doesn’t seep into the leather. However, the same can’t be done with the Day/Night Test pink ball since grease would dull the fluorescent pink, affecting the visibility of the ball under lights. The D/N ball also gets a pigment finish and is sprayed with a thick coat of pink colour so that it sparkles all night, making it easy for fielders, batsmen, fans in the stands and those watching the game on TV to spot. But this emphasis on the ball maintaining its pinkness also slows its aging, which takes away from the intrigue of a Test match.

Is pink merely white in disguise?
Like the white ball used in the shorter versions, pink too, does go flat. It is lighter than red, and swings more in the initial overs. It also shows 20% more seam moment. However, once the ball is softer, the swing disappears. With no real weathering or fading of the leather, pacers find it difficult to get reverse swing, and spinners complain of lack of turn. This often results in long periods of boring play.

But do D/N Tests produce results?
While all nine D/N Tests played so far have produced a result, the conditions have had a bigger say in who has dominated. While bowlers have done well in Australia and New Zealand (where England were shot out for 58 last month), the batting milestones have come elsewhere (such as Azhar Ali’s triple hundred in Dubai in 2016 and Alastair Cook’s 243 in Edgbaston last year). Asian surfaces have suited spinners — Devendra Bishoo’s 8/49 in Dubai are the best figures with pink — but D/N games in the southern hemisphere have been dominated by pace. Most D/N Tests have come alive in the twilight period, when the sun hasn’t fully set and the floodlights are partially switched on, the mix of natural and artificial light makes it difficult for batsmen to spot the pink ball, and the falling temperature and moisture in the air suddenly make the ball swing.

Why don’t India want to play with pink?
While Adelaide has been one of India’s few happy hunting grounds in Australia, the team understandably wants to face the known red devil and avoid an unpredictable and experimental format. Australia have won all four pink ball Tests they’ve played, which, too, might have been a factor.

(Adapted from The Indian Express)



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