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.
Starting Thursday, Pakistan will host the West Indies in Dubai in a day-night Test featuring the pink ball. It is a match that will be followed closely 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 pink balls aimed at dragging the traditional format—the five-day game—into the 21st century.
“We are probably making 15,000-20,000 pink balls per year. The numbers of pink balls are growing,” says Khawar Anwar Khawaja, chief executive of Grays of Cambridge, which has been making cricket balls since 1953.
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 attendance.
After years of trials, the governing body has plumped for pink to replace the 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 job.
“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 adds, beaming with pride as his workers stitch the balls by hand behind him.
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq firmly believes that the “future belongs to night Tests”.