India’s increasing focus on pace bowling has impacted the quality of balls being used in Test matches, said Paras Anand, Marketing Director of Sanspareils Greeland or SG, the sports goods company in Meerut that is providing the pink balls for the first Day-Night Test between India and Bangladesh in Kolkata.
“Excited and nervous”, Anand said he was keen to know the “feedback of the players”. “It is only the 12th Test to be played with a pink ball. The SG pink ball has not been used in First Class cricket. It has only been tested in the First Division. Unless it is tested at the top level, we won’t know,” said Anand, the third generation entrepreneur of the family business started by his grandfather Kedarnath Anand in Sialkot in 1931 before he and his brother Dwarkanath moved to Meerut in 1950.
Comparing it with the SG red ball, which the company has been providing for Test matches in India for the last 27 years, Anand told The Hindu that the difference was in the dyeing process. In the red ball, he said, the wax-coating process takes a day, while in a pink ball they use polyurethane coating or lacquer in layman’s terms. “It takes up to 4-5 days to get the desired gloss that would make the ball last for 80-90 overs,” he said.
On the apprehensions about the pink ball getting exaggerated swing movement in the early overs and lack of reverse swing and spin, Anand said that the extra pigment coating will cause lateral movement during early overs. “I don’t think that spinners would be affected because, apart from the colour, the seam is almost the same as the red ball. If the dew factor is taken care of, spinners would have a say in the game.
“As for reverse swing, it would come into play later than it does with the red ball. But these are all possibilities, players would discover ways to deal with the new ball, like how it behaves during the twilight, and we would like them to share their feedback with us,” said Anand.
In the past, Virat Kohli and R. Ashwin have criticised the seam of the SG ball. Anand countered it was last year. “Things have changed since then, as we have incorporated the changes that they wanted. You could see it in the Indore Test. Ashwin could have taken many more wickets had catches were not dropped off his bowling,” he said.
Anand said critics of the ball should realise that the Indian pitches were changing and we no longer rely only on slower bowlers to win Test matches. “We have been asked to make harder balls with a seam that would stand up for 70-80 overs and our technical team has responded.”
He agreed that the difference between Kookaburra, Dukes and SG balls was diminishing. “With so much exposure to world cricket because of the social media and internet, like in many other fields in the globalised world, there are very few secrets left in ball making as well.”
He pointed out conditions and team compositions in respective countries also change and that has an impact on the kind of balls being used. “Right now, a swing bowler like Bhuvaneshwar Kumar is sitting outside because our present pace squad is so strong.”
Describing ball making as a labour-intensive work, he said right now the cost of making a pink ball is more than 5% than the red ball. “At the top level, it doesn’t matter but as the number of floodlit grounds would increase, the demand for the pink ball would swell. We have 200 people devoted to the ball department.”