July 2, 2014

Lessons from ancient Pompeii

Andrew Hughes
A survey revealed that players are undecided about whether pink balls are aesthetically displeasing if placed along the boundary rope  © Getty Images
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As any unlicensed spectrumologist will tell you, the colour of an object can tell you a lot about its personality. For instance, red objects are usually dynamic, extroverted and, if you rub them up and down on your trousers first, able to swing round corners.

Sadly, Cricket Australia didn't think to bring in consultants from the colour industry before they made their decision to try pink cricket balls in day-night Sheffield Shield games. The result has been chaos and a big thumbs-down from the hard-working Aussie cricketer who knows what he likes (and it isn't pink leather).

A mass survey of the bat-and-ball fraternity revealed this week that they have taken to the pink cricket ball in the way that a Yorkshireman might react if you told him he was getting an oven-braised flank of ox with sautéed-onion jus and sculpted batter on a bed of steamed root vegetables, instead of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, for his Sunday lunch.

Apparently the pink ball doesn't behave like the red ball. It doesn't bounce properly. It doesn't swing enough. It goes soft. It looks awful with white trousers. It's easily mistaken for a giant gobstopper: hence the dramatic increase in dental injuries among Aussie cricketers. And well, it isn't red, is it? Cricket balls are supposed to be red.

I'm not an expert on the cricketing arts, but I can't quite see the logic behind the theory that colouring the leather of cricket balls pink changes the balls' physical properties. But Paul Marsh of the ACA is adamant. Using pink leather will have dire consequences:

"The risk is… it could result in a very boring game of cricket."

But I thought the problem was that we already have the very boring game of cricket; you know, the one that lasts five days; the one that hardly anyone watches unless it's between England and Australia.

The naysayers who come up with endless reasons why we shouldn't try something new are like the people of ancient Pompeii. At the Pompeii Town Hall meeting to decide what to do vis a vis the rumbling volcano, everyone agreed that the entire population should pack up their belongings and head out of the city.

But as soon as they got outside, they began complaining. What if they can't fit all their belongings on their cart? What if there are potholes in the road out of Pompeii? There might be loose gravel and they might get loose gravel in their sandals and get a sore foot, and sore feet can be very painful. There might be snakes. And anyway, what's the problem? Apart from the ash-spewing mountain, the gathering darkness, and the lava, it's a lovely spring day.

Ever since day-night Test cricket was first suggested, we have had endless debate, administrative toe-dipping, general chin-scratching, and now the colour of the ball is a problem. How about we just give it a try, cricket, and see how it goes.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here

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Posted by   on (July 3, 2014, 0:07 GMT)

Hear hear! If they can come up with a better colour later on then that's great. Until then let's get this show rolling.

Do you think over-arm bowling would have gotten off the ground if there were a large body of entrenched professionals whose livelihood was affected who got to offer feedback on the idea?

Posted by nikhilrkutty on (July 2, 2014, 8:30 GMT)

Exactly! Test cricket needs to evolve to allow people who have days jobs to be able to watch it comfortably and whatever issues there are needs to be worked upon. The biggest concern here is that there seems to be a high degree of close-mindedness in the feedback given.

Posted by   on (July 2, 2014, 7:46 GMT)

I actually suspect that the aversion toward the pink ball is simply due to the players having a prejudice, consciously or otherwise, against the colour pink and have excuses that are just a product of confirmation bias (because pink is soooo scary to their masculinity!). The complaints about it (it swings less, is harder to hit, bounces less) do not require players' opinions at all: these are all things that can be tested with technology without getting the unscientific views from the players, and I wouldn't be surprised if the issues with the pink ball are a figment of the imagination.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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