Cricket is a sport with a long and storied history, evolving over several centuries into the modern game we know today. Its origins can be traced back to rural England during the medieval period, with the earliest known reference to cricket dating back to the 13th century.
The exact origins of cricket are somewhat unclear, but it is believed to have been played by shepherds and farm labourers in the southeastern counties of England during the 16th century. The game gradually gained popularity and started to be played in other parts of the country.
By the 17th century, cricket had become a popular pastime among the English gentry and aristocracy. The first recorded match took place in 1697, and the sport continued to grow in popularity.
Cricket balls have undergone significant changes over time in international cricket, with advancements in technology, standardization, and the introduction of different ball types for various formats of the game.
By the 17th century, leather balls had become the preferred choice for cricket. They were hand-stitched and filled with various materials like cork, rags, and feathers to give them shape and weight. The size and weight of these leather balls were not uniform, leading to inconsistency in the game.
In the 18th century, there was a move towards standardizing the size and weight of cricket balls. The weight settled at around 5.5 to 5.75 ounces (155.9 to 163 grams), and the circumference at about 9 to 9.25 inches (22.9 to 23.5 centimeters). This standardization brought more consistency and fairness to the game.
With the establishment of Test cricket in the late 19th century, the red ball became the standard for Test matches. The longer format of Test cricket required a durable ball that could maintain its shape and performance over extended periods of play.
Evolution of the White Ball in Cricket
The evolution of the white ball in cricket is closely linked to the development of limited-overs cricket and the need for better visibility under floodlights during day-night matches. In the 1960s, cricket authorities sought ways to make the game more appealing to spectators and broadcasters.
The idea of limited-overs cricket was introduced as a more fast-paced and entertaining version of the game, with a restricted number of overs per side. The white ball was specifically introduced for limited-overs cricket. Unlike the traditional red ball used in Test matches and first-class cricket, the white ball was deemed more suitable for the faster-paced nature of limited-overs cricket. To maintain the white colour and visibility of the ball throughout the match, the white cricket ball is coated with a layer of paint or lacquer.
This coating helps protect the ball’s surface and maintain its shine, which is essential for swing and seam movement in limited-overs cricket. Today, the white cricket ball continues to be a significant part of limited-overs cricket, including One Day Internationals (ODIs) and Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is).
It has added an exciting dimension to the game, allowing for thrilling contests under lights and engaging day-night Test matches, making cricket more accessible and enjoyable for players and fans worldwide.
New Era of International Cricket – Pink Ball
The evolution of the pink ball in cricket is relatively recent and is linked to the introduction of day-night Test matches. The concept of day-night Test matches was introduced to attract larger crowds and increase television viewership for Test cricket, especially in regions where traditional Test matches had seen declining attendance.
Playing Test matches under floodlights extended the playing hours into the evening, making it more convenient for spectators to watch after work. In an attempt to address the visibility issue, cricket ball manufacturers began experimenting with various colours, and the pink ball was introduced as a potential solution.
The pink ball was designed to offer better visibility under floodlights while retaining the characteristics of a red ball.