Joe Root is in full-on attack mode as England kick off their Ashes test series against Australia at the Adelaide Oval on Thursday, warning his team against taking the ball from the pink Kookaburra, after his finger was allegedly bitten off by the traditional Test ball. Meanwhile, Shane Watson has endorsed the pink ball, saying it would help reduce wear and tear.
Englishmen suffered the latest injuries to the new Kookaburra Test ball at the MCG on Monday, when they followed the same path they did in the recently completed series against Sri Lanka. Not only did the batsmen suffer the thumb, wrist and arm injuries, but they also lost the crucial match. Asked if it was a “joke” that they were expected to wear the pink ball, Root said “It’s the Ashes. There is a history of playing with pink balls. We’re not going to forget that.”
Speaking to ABC radio, he had a little more to say. “As a team that has played with it regularly over the last year or so we are going to have to get used to it. That might be something we struggle with for a period of time but I’d like to think that our experienced players within the side will be able to manage that transition for us.”
It was a big topic of conversation in England in the weeks leading up to the Ashes. Sportswriters even suggested that the pink ball played similar to the ebony ones used in UAE cricket, another most-watched format of the game, but they argued the difference was in the seam or pitch and made it sound like just another new ball — only it was a different colour.
Their comments were mixed. Some were critical, criticising the sport for giving away so much money to Australia by making them the first global test cricket series to use the Kookaburra pink ball. Others felt that these were fears that the players would be too scared to face Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, the three pacemen Australia’s returned with match figures of 9-67, 8-77 and 10-82.
The line between old and new has often been blurry. The “knuckle ball”, which was used until the 1920s, is still largely played in conditions similar to Test cricket today. Three years ago, it was brought back as a throwback to the period before the Dukes ball, still considered the standard to this day, was produced. But it is not something that has helped quell the fears of the fans who saw the hosts lose to Pakistan by 166 runs.
The choice of the Kookaburra gave England hope that they might be able to dodge this year’s thrashing. But like Root, they’re finding out just how uncomfortable that pink ball can be to use.