Batsmen struggle to get a hang of skiddy pink ball

The debate over the pink ball, batsmen’s ability in handling it on Indian pitches, and the ideal surface is sure to gain momentum after the third Test, a day-nighter, between India and England ended on Thursday inside two days. To give an idea about the rarity of the occasion, it was only the 22nd match ever in the history of Test cricket to end inside two days and the second in India — after the Test against debutants Afghanistan in 2018 that was played with the red ball.

But for the 2019 Eden Gardens day-night Test against Bangladesh — India’s first with pink ball — slipping over to the third day for just an hour, this could easily have been the third Test finishing inside two days in three years in India.

Both Tests with the pink ball in India haven’t lasted long and it says a lot about the extra shine that the ball has, which made handling it difficult for batsmen on Indian pitches that have seen just six individual half-centuries in six completed innings across two pink-ball Tests.

Players from both sides, including India left-arm spinner Axar Patel who took 11 wickets in the third Test, said that the pink ball skidded more than the red.

The batsmen expecting it to turn were deceived by one that didn’t.

Sanspareils Greenlands (SG) marketing director Paras Anand told IANS on Friday: “It (pink ball) will definitely skid more because it has more shine on it.”

The pink ball, he explained, is prepared differently from the red ball when it comes to colouring. The pink ball has two layers of base colour and four layers of pink pigment and a coating of lacquer. The red ball, on the other hand, has only a coating of lacquer over dyed leather.

None of the Indian cricketers, barring those who have played Test cricket in the last two games, have played first-class with the SG pink ball. The one used for Duleep Trophy games on experimental basis was the Kookaburra.

Former India and Bengal pace bowler, Ashok Dinda, who has played first-class matches with the pink ball in Duleep Trophy says it has more shine.

“I can’t say much about the SG pink ball as we played with the Kookaburra pink ball. With red ball we can get reverse which we don’t get with the pink ball. You can’t make the pink ball reverse because it is a bit hard and the shine lasts much longer (because of extra coating). It also doesn’t seam as much as the red ball,” says Dinda. “However, pink or red, you need to bowl in the right areas.”

When the Duleep Trophy was being played, some India players complained that it wasn’t helping the spinners at all.

Former India wicket-keeper batsman Dinesh Karthik had in September 2017 said that the Kookaburra pink ball in Duleep Trophy didn’t allow spinners to turn the ball much.

SG developed its own pink ball which was used for the Test matches.

On the two days in Ahmedabad, even as the wickets fell to straight balls with batsmen playing for the spin, the SG pink ball let spinners get a quite a lot of purchase, helped by a very spinner-friendly wicket.

This was quite different from Adelaide two months ago when Australian seamers got rid of India batsmen with a new ball.