July 2, 2014

Lessons from ancient Pompeii

And why we need to give the pink ball a chance

A survey revealed that players are undecided about whether pink balls are aesthetically displeasing if placed along the boundary rope © Getty Images

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