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Pink balls could lead to 'very, very boring cricket'

Brydon Coverdale

June 30, 2014

Comments: 88 | Text size: A | A

Chris Lynn revived a poor start with a half-century, Queensland v Western Australia, Sheffield Shield, Brisbane, 1st day, March 3, 2014
Some players saw the pink ball clearly while others did not © Getty Images

Australia's cricketers have collectively called "dead ball" on the pink Kookaburras used in day-night Sheffield Shield matches last summer. Dead, that is, in the sense of being lifeless and dull. As Cricket Australia and New Zealand Cricket discussed plans to go ahead with a day-night Test in either Adelaide or Hobart next year, the Australian Cricketers' Association raised concerns over the viability of the pink balls likely to be used.

ACA survey of players, 2014

  • Do you believe the day-night Sheffield Shield matches were a success?
  • Yes - 11%
  • No - 44%
  • Unsure - 45%
  • Do you believe day-night Tests should be played in the future?
  • Yes - 24%
  • No - 51%
  • Unsure - 26%
  • Did the pink ball show similar signs of wear and tear as the traditional red Kookaburra ball?
  • Yes - 6%
  • No - 94%
  • Did the pink ball show similar characteristics, eg swing and seam, as the traditional red Kookaburra ball?
  • Yes - 11%
  • No - 89%
  • Did the pink ball provide a fair contest between bat and ball?
  • Yes - 25%
  • No - 75%
  • Was the pink ball easy to see while batting and fielding in natural afternoon light?
  • Yes - 58%
  • No - 42%
  • Was the pink ball easy to see while batting and fielding under lights?
  • Yes - 51%
  • No - 49%

After last season's trial, which involved a full round of day-night Shield matches in March, the ACA surveyed players to assess whether the concept had been a success, and how the pink balls had performed. The results were far from convincing. Only 24% of players surveyed said they believed day-night Tests should be played in future, and just 11% declared the day-night Shield matches a success.

ACA chief executive Paul Marsh said the major concern of players was that the balls offered little movement for the bowlers, yet also proved hard for batsmen to score against. He said that while Cricket Australia was to be commended for trialing the concept and that the players were open to further experimentation, rushing into day-night Tests without further improvements to the ball could prove detrimental to the game.

"The ball itself, they [the players] were quite critical of it," Marsh told ESPNcricinfo. "The general feedback was that it went soft very quickly, the ball didn't swing, it didn't seam, it didn't reverse swing. So it became a ball that was very difficult to get batsmen out with, but it was also difficult to score runs because it got soft quickly.

"The thing the game probably needs to look at here is that given the way the ball performed, the risk is that with no movement and the ball getting very soft, it could result in a very, very boring game of cricket. That's the risk. It might increase the excitement levels by having a day-night Test match, but you may actually lose out by having a ball that doesn't do anything.

"That's something that they've got to keep working on. The first day-night Test match, no matter what the ball is I'm sure people will turn up and it will rate well because it's new, but you've got to look beyond the first one or two games and look at the sustainability of it. I'd encourage them to keep investing in trying to find a ball that fits the purpose, because at the moment our view is that the pink ball is not."

Last summer's Shield matches were played in Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane, and Adelaide looms as a likely venue for the inaugural day-night Test in November 2015. Cricket Australia said earlier this year that the trial at the Gabba had been less successful than at other venues as the ground's lights were different and made the ball harder to see, and another round of day-night Shield games will be played next summer in Adelaide, Perth and Hobart.

Work will continue on the pink ball but the boards of both Australia and New Zealand appear intent on introducing day-night Test cricket next year. After last summer's trial, 51% of players surveyed by the ACA said they did not believe day-night Test cricket should be played in the future, while 24% said it should be and 26% said they were unsure.

When asked if the pink ball had shown similar signs of wear and tear to the traditional red Kookaburra ball, 94% of players said it had not. Approximately 89% said the pink balls had not shown similar characteristics such as swing and seam movement as a red Kookaburra. Only 25% of players said they believed the pink balls provided a fair contest between bat and ball.

Cricket Australia's chief executive, James Sutherland, said that while every effort would be made to bring the pink balls as close as possible in characteristics to a red ball, they would never be quite the same. Marsh said he hoped work would continue on that before day-night matches came to Test cricket.

"The players are supportive of trialing the concept," Marsh said. "The players initially didn't think it was a good idea. They warmed to it ... but the problem has always been the ball and now that we've had the trials last year, the feedback from the players wasn't particularly positive around the ball.

"We're still very open to the trialing of it. We certainly commend Cricket Australia on trialing it. We think there's a little bit of a way to go yet before the ball is ready for Test cricket."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by yaa_right on (July 7, 2014, 13:07 GMT)

If the white balls lasts for lesser overs (~40) than that of red ball, THEN SIMPLY CHANGE THEM!! Use 2 or 3 new white balls per 90 overs (1 day) of testmatch. what's the problem with that?? (similar thing is followed in an 100 over ODI match).

Also by using 2-3 white balls per day of testcricket, seam bowlers will come more into action and can give bowlers back the lost advantage (somewhat) in this game which is otherwise pretty much a batsman's game. Semi new ball can be used (as a standard rule) for some overs before taking the mandatory new ball to help spinners.

Posted by Adoh on (July 3, 2014, 2:50 GMT)

I think everyone has got things the wrong way around. Why not simply make the uniforms black and use a white ball. The white ball appears to have no issues.

Posted by xtrafalgarx on (July 2, 2014, 6:40 GMT)

This is surely a joke. People keep fussing over the ball as if the red one is a thing of heaven. How hard can it be to come up with a ball exactly the same as the red one but in a different colour!?

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (July 1, 2014, 21:16 GMT)

@Rama Knian, it all depends where in the world you are from, and who the opponents are.

In England most days for most tests against a major nation (Aus, SA, India) are sell outs, The same occurs in Aus. For mid tier games WI, SL, NZ it can be hit or miss, and for lower teams BD, Zimbabwe it largely depends.

For example in England a test ticket to the India game is between 75+USD, direct, or upto 4 times that on some ticket sites, in AUS its about 1/3 the price, the other aspect is time off work, and trust me I wouldnt go to a day night test after work, as the first thing on my mind is to get home and see my family and spend time with my kids before they goto bed, Id rather have time off and take my kids for the day.

Posted by   on (July 1, 2014, 16:49 GMT)

These players who are resisting making changes to test matches are going to put the 'big' nail right through the heart of test cricket.

Yet millions of test cricket fans follow test cricket on the internet. WHY? Why do we follow test cricket on the internet and don't go to the test matches during the day?

Posted by   on (July 1, 2014, 11:55 GMT)

The best way to support Test cricket is to play more T20's, less ODI's.

People like T20's. Play more of them. Earn more money. Use that money to fund Test cricket. Then you don't need big crowds for Tests. Play the Tests on lovely village greens and make it free to attend.

Posted by   on (July 1, 2014, 11:24 GMT)

"how many tests we have seen where one team bats for 3 days (especially on flat tracks) If your rule is applied it will be a new format of cricket, not 'test' cricket.

Posted by crick_sucks on (July 1, 2014, 9:52 GMT)

If at all day-night test cricket does get adapted then it will be the last nail in the coffin for test cricket.

Posted by siddhartha87 on (July 1, 2014, 9:01 GMT)

NOt sure the abt the science behind it,but how come colour of the leather determine swing and seam?

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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