Cricket & Tradition
Cricket is a very traditional game. Many of the rules are still rooted in the past and the equipment barring protective gear is still ancient. The bats continue to be made up of English willow and balls from genuine leather and are stitched by hand.
But slowly, cricket too is changing. The format has changed to include abbreviated versions like one-day and T20 formats and internationals are regularly conducted as day-night matches. The last to hitch on to this bandwagon is the holy grail of cricket, “The Tests!”
Cricket traditionally was played during the daytime using a red ball (affectionately called the Red Cherry!) Introduction of day-night matches in one day format brought in the white cricket ball and many a doubt and controversy regarding its performance. But over time, the white ball has been accepted and has found its niche.
The pink cricket ball is the new entrant due to the demand for day-night Test cricket and it is undergoing the same birth pangs as the white ball. In due course of time, it too will find acceptance.
Colour Of A Cricket Ball And Its performance
Now to the issue at hand, what is the difference between these three balls? Do they perform differently due to their colour? (Let us assume we are talking about cricket balls used at the international level for uniformity).
The answer is a Yes and No! And let me tell you why!
First and foremost, the entire effort in manufacturing a cricket ball is focused on consistency, which means no ball should be unique and different.
Cricket Ball Specifications
Each cricket ball, regardless of colour, should weigh between 5.5 to 5.75 Oz (156 to 163 grams) and its circumference should be between 8.81 to 9 inches (224 to 229 mm). They all have a cork core, which is wound in a string and a four-piece leather outer that is stitched together either by hand or in a machine. The finished shape should pass within a nominated ring to make sure the shape matches the expectations. The seam of the ball is made up of 6 lines of stiches that hold the two hemispheres together and is slightly raised.
You can see that the manufacturing process is pretty much the same irrespective of the colour of the ball. So there is nothing unique there to make any ball behave differently.
Colour Of A Cricket Ball
Now to the colouring part, all cricket balls are coloured using aniline (for red) and pigment (for white and pink) dyes. They are covered in a coat of lacquer to provide shine. The vital difference is in the addition of buck fat which actually brightens the red colour but when used in a pink dye darkens it and reduces its visibility. So more coats need to be applied to achieve the brightness and uniformity of colour in both white and red balls. Unlike red, the dye doesn’t penetrate the leather and get absorbed in. This means that once the shine is lost and the original colour tends to show up in white and pink balls. The red ball on the other hand can be polished and can achieve swing after polishing.
Despite these differences, very little research has been done on actual playing conditions. The white ball is said to swing more than red but it also gets dirty and loses polish quickly so two balls are used from either end. In fact, pink ball is a compromise between the red and white balls! Manufacturers on the other hand are making efforts to make them perform as uniformly possible
So let us summarise based on common wisdom as things stand now.
1. The white ball swings a bit more than red – The pink ball swings more than the white ball
2. The red ball retains color better than the white ball and the pink ball
3. Sufficient studies are not available to gain an objective conclusion
4. The colour of the balls may cease to make a difference with manufacturers actively working to improve their process.
Mohan is a Junior Associate at Swag Swami, an online store that reviews cricket bats, Kits, and other sports equipment. He is also an avid gamer who spends his free time logged into Steam. He also practices Yoga and meditation regularly and teaches Yoga at the Cosmopolitan Center in India.