R Ashwin’s words following India’s win in the first Test against Bangladesh in Indore sums up the uncertainty around how the pink SG ball would work for spinners. Ashwin is the type of cricketer who’s known to think hard and deep about the minute aspects of the game, and even he’s waiting to figure out the latest entrant to Test cricket – the pink SG ball.
It’s common knowledge that a pink ball, as opposed to the traditional red one, has more lacquer for better visibility, especially in twilight. The pink ball shines more, making it easier to pick under lights. The extra lacquer also means the ball will appear new for more time than the red ball, which, along with cooler temperatures in evenings, aid pacers.
The Eden Gardens Test between India and Bangladesh will be the first time an SG pink ball will be used in Test, or even first-class, cricket. Even the Duleep Trophy day-night matches of 2016, 2017 and 2018 were played with pink Kookaburra balls.
Unlike the Kookaburra, the SG ball is known for a more prominent seam, which could mean good news for spinners too. There have been complaints from prominent domestic players that pink (Kookaburra) balls offer little help for bowlers because of the lack of seam, making life very easy for batsmen. It remains to be seen if the bigger seam in SG changes that.
Ajinkya Rahane spoke about the different aspects of the SG pink ball, saying even spinners got good ‘revs’ (revolutions) on the ball due to the seam, but stressed it’s early days to assess the differences between the two balls.
“We played against spinners in Bangalore, and they were getting good revs on the ball. Yes, the shine is completely different to the red ball, but it’s very hard to compare with SG ball and the Kookaburra ball,” he had said after a practise session in Bangalore.
“I’ve never played with the pink ball. And what I’ve heard from other people is that the Kookaburra ball is actually really easy for the batsmen. But what we saw in Bangalore and played in Bangalore is that the SG ball was doing a bit for the fast bowlers. For spinners, it is difficult but it is very hard for me to say right now about Kookaburra and SG ball.”
Cheteshwar Pujara has more experience than Rahane, having played the 2016 Duleep Trophy where he top-scored with 453 runs from three innings. Pujara made an interesting point about spin and pink ball, saying a few players found it difficult to pick the variations of a wrist spinner with the pink ball.
“During the day, there will be no visibility issues with the pink ball. In my experience, the twilight period and the period under lights are more difficult. Those sessions will be crucial,” he told bcci.tv. “My experience as a batsman was a good one. Even as a team we did well. But some of the other players I had spoken to said that especially when facing a wristspinner, their wrong’uns were difficult to pick. When Kuldeep (Yadav) was bowling, it was difficult to pick his wrong’un.”
Interestingly, numbers back this assessment. Spinners have dominated bowling charts in all three day-night Duleep Trophies. In 2016, five of the top six wicket takers were spinners, with Kuldeep leading the pack with 17 wickets from three matches. In 2017, the top eight wicket takers were all spinners, with Karn Sharma at the top. The following year, three of the top five were spinners with left-arm spinner Saurabh Kumar at the top.