Cricket is a sport which involves hitting a ball with a wooden bat. A batsman can consistently hit the ball outside a periphery of 30 yards that is fired at him at various speeds. It thus gives us a hint how sturdy a cricket ball must be at the professional level.
Soft and hard tennis balls are often used in recreational cricket. But at a professional level, cricket balls are made with a cork body encapsulated with leather. This leather can either be two or four in number and are bound together by six rows of stitches which make the seam of the ball. The balls are nearly 23 cm in diameter and weigh around 160 to 163 grams. In women’s cricket, this weight and diameter marginally reduces. Cricket balls evolved with the development of the sport. There are now three major variants of the cricket ball, each of which is given a characteristic color depending on their use and construction.
The original cricket ball is red in color. It is used in Test match cricket and at the domestic tournaments as well. This ball can be handmade or machine-made and have high endurance. The property of its supreme durability is what makes it a perfect fit for formats like test cricket where nearly 80 to 90 overs (4800-5400 balls) are bowled in a single day. A cricket ball has a tendency to gradually wear out. Once it does, the amount of swing generated by the bowlers also reduces. This tendency is unavoidable. Hence, to adapt to the format of test cricket, the red ball’s resilience is vastly increased during its manufacturing.
The introduction of broadcast of cricket in color television and the adaptation of one day cricket (50 overs per side) led to the formation of white cricket ball. The red ball under floodlights gave it a brown hue which was very close to the color of the pitch. This led to the fabrication of white ball. The white ball is less resilient and durable compared to the red ball. The stitched area of the ball, often known as the seam, is in some cases wider in the white ball compared to the red ball. This is done with the purpose that the white ball retains its shape even at the end of the day which involves hard hitting cricket. The white ball is thus used in one day internationals and T20 cricket.
The pink ball was introduced when test cricket was scheduled as a day-night format. During the night time, the red ball has a poor visibility. The white ball is not suited for the prolonged time period of test cricket since it wears faster. Hence came the pink ball, which carried a higher dye consistency compared to the red and white ball. This also changed a few characteristics of the cricket ball. However, these changes were not too drastic and the pink ball has now gained enough reputation.
The three main companies that manufacture cricket balls are Dukes, Kookaburra and SG. Dukes is heavily used by England and West Indies, Kookaburra by Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Sri Lanka and SG by India.
What is ball tampering in cricket?
It has been often reported that players, even at the highest echelons of the game try to change the characteristics of the ball by applying moisturising pastes, gels or any other substances in order to maintain the shine of the ball. They are also reported to bite the ball or rub it with a gritty material in order to manipulate the swing of the ball. Such illegal activities are collectively called “ball tampering.” A player who is caught doing so might be suspended for a prolonged time from playing any match and a significant amount of his prize money is deducted.
The thickness of cricket balls increased as the thickness of the bat increased owing to its materialistic development. Hence, bowlers can now bowl at a pace of 150km/hr, sometimes even touching the 160km/hr mark. At the same time, batsmen can hit the shots as far as 100 to 120 metres. When it comes to cricket balls, it is important they retain their shine, develop a sufficient wear resistance and are visible clearly irrespective of any external factors.