Talking about sports without mentioning cricket is like missing the most essential ingredient in a food recipe. What, was once the national game of England in the early 18th century, is now the world’s second most popular sport with more than 2.5 Billion fans. From ODIs and Test matches to the World cup series and Twenty20s, the game of cricket has evolved immensely through the years. Moreover, it has also made way into the online gaming industry in the form of fantasy cricket or e-cricket. Cricket lovers are all going gaga over the online version of their favourite sport.
Along with the changes in the rules and types of matches played, considerable changes have also been made with the cricket equipment, namely the cricket ball and bat. So, for all those cricket enthusiasts, here are a couple of interesting facts about how the ‘cricket ball’ has transitioned over the years.
Evolution of the Cricket Balls
- Different Colours are for Different Reasons
If you have ever watched cricket keenly, you must have noticed the changing ball colours. Red, white, and pink balls are the three variants, and each of them has its own significance and purpose behind usage.
The red-coloured ball is the first ball that came into existence ever since cricket began in England. Till now it is predominantly used in test matches, One-day Internationals, and other high-standard international and domestic matches that last for a couple of days. Red balls are rigid, robust, and long-lasting. They are known to retain their shape and structure for a long duration and offer massive swing in the air; which is the primary reason why these balls are used in first-class cricket. Red balls are great to use when new, but once they wear off, their swinging ability decreases.
When night ODI matches came in trend, it became difficult to use red balls under the stadium’s floodlights. Hence, to meet the need for better visibility in night-time matches, the white ball was manufactured. Though similar in size and weight, the white balls provide far better swing than the red ones. It was first tested in 1977 during the World Series in Australia.
The only drawback is that they get dirty and wear off quicker than red balls. It was challenging to use them after the first half innings in a typical 50 overs ODI. As a solution to this problem, the ruling of a “ball change”, roughly at the end of the first 30 overs was made; after which, white balls became very common in both day/night ODIs and twenty20 matches until now. However, their usage was still restricted to games with limited hours only.
Both red and white balls had their limitations. While red was perfect for day time test matches, whites were great for night time ODIs and twenty20s. Hence, the pink ball was made, which was capable of usage in both day and night first-class crickets. The pink balls are durable for long overs and are pretty much visible during night-time matches.
These were first brought into testing in 2009, upon the recommendation of MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club), which was a women’s cricket match between Australia and England. Since then, the Cricket Australia board and the England Cricket Board are using pink balls for day/night tests. Their usage became more common since 2015 when Australia and New Zealand played their first day/night test.
- A cricket ball’s structure defines its characteristics
Extreme precision and finesse are required to manufacture the first quality cricket ball. It is mandatory upon all the associations to strictly adhere to the British Standard BS 5993 in designing all types of balls. The circumference, size, and weight of these balls differ for different age groups (like men, women, and teen players). The ideal weight of the ball would be around 155-163gms with a circumference of up to 9 inches.
The core of the ball is moulded from cork and is firmly sewn together with four layers of leather covering to provide all the bounce and weight required. There are six strong stitches along the centre of the ball to facilitate the players with a firm grip to hold. Balls prepared using these specifications are of the highest quality. In addition to these, separate balls, consisting only two layers of leather that are a little low in quality, are specially designed to use during practice sessions.
- Manufacturing units across the world
At present, three sports’ equipment brands are supplying cricket balls all over the world.
- Kookaburra – An Australian based company well known for cricket and hockey gears.
- Dukes – A product of the British Cricket Balls Ltd.
- SG or Sanspareils Greenlands – An Indian brand with its headquarters in Meerut that specializes in cricket gears.
For limited overs matches like the ODIs and Twenty20s, white balls from Kookaburra are used internationally by all countries. However, for test matches, England, West Indies, and Ireland opt for the British brand, Dukes ball, India uses balls from SG, and Kookaburra is preferred by the remaining countries. The performance of the cricket balls varies between different manufacturers. For instance, Kookaburra balls are found to have less swing than the Dukes’ balls.
Takeaway – The past, present, and the future
The primary focus behind the evolutionary changes in the cricket balls was to facilitate both the batsmen and bowlers in the field. The trajectory of the cricket ball, its movement off the field, and in the air is not just defined by the bowler’s pace but also by the ball’s dimensions and design. Hence, it is very essential that the manufacturing of these balls must be done with extreme precision and care. The importance of having the right gear in the match that is a perfect cricket ball and bat can never be neglected. So, whether it is fantasy cricket on the MPL Pro app or a real-time game played on the field, there is a lot that goes in to decide the outcome of the match.