SIALKOT: As cricket stages its second day-night Test this week, factory workers in Pakistan will be among the avid television viewers — they might even have made the innovative pink balls being used by their heroes.
Pakistan host West Indies in Dubai in a five-day/night Test featuring the pink ball, starting Thursday. It is a match that will be closely followed in Sialkot, the city that is the country’s sports manufacturing hub.
Pakistan’s sports goods industry is positioning itself to be the top supplier of the new pink balls aimed at dragging the traditional format — the five-day game — into the 21st century.
The high visibility balls made their Test debut last year when Australia played New Zealand in Adelaide, to mixed reviews. But cricket’s bosses are committed to increasing the number of day/night Tests as they bid to reverse the trend of falling attendances.
After years of trials, the governing body have plumped for pink to replace traditional red under lights, as it is visible against both dark skies and the traditional Test-match white kits.
Two major factories and dozens of small units in Sialkot are on the case.
New colour, old format
“Last year we produced about 120,000 cricket balls (all colours), but our demand is growing. We hope to do this year minimum hopefully around 150,000 balls,” Khawaja added, beaming with pride as his workers stitched the balls by hand behind him.
Test cricket is the sport’s longest format with matches that despite being scheduled for five days of play, can still end in a draw. With breaks for lunch and tea, Tests evoke a bygone era and are losing support to the modern, shortest, form of the game, Twenty20.
Filling stadiums across five days and attracting advertisers has increasingly become a problem.
Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan’s celebrated captain who last month took them to number one in the rankings, is a firm believer that the “future belongs to night Tests”.
“Since the game is played for the fans and for the audience, this night cricket is the future and it’s definitely good for cricket,” he told reporters last week.