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Australia seek edge in ball wars

Daniel Brettig

October 24, 2012

Comments: 43 | Text size: A | A

The Dukes pink ball at Lord's, London, April 21, 2008
Dukes manufactured a pink ball to experiment with night cricket, but their red variant will be seen in Australia this summer © Getty Images
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Australian cricket's new-found dedication to performance has uncovered another area to seek a competitive edge, with England's Dukes ball to be used down under to better prepare players for its subtleties on next year's Ashes tour.

Known for offering decidedly different characteristics to the Australian Kookaburra ball, the Dukes will be be trialled in the under-age championships and a handful of second-XI games during the summer.

If they stand up to the rigours of firm Australian pitches, they are then likely to be used in some late season Sheffield Shield games.

There are also plans afoot for stocks of India's SG ball to be brought to Australia for similar exploratory use, in order to aid the knowledge of Australian players when they deliver it on the subcontinent.

Understanding and taking advantage of the differences inherent in each ball is traditionally something players must develop upon arrival at an overseas destination, but Cricket Australia's plans may help to build greater familiarity and ultimately skill.

"The medium to long-term view is we want our Australian players using different balls in our competitions to help them prepare for international tours where the Kookaburra ball is not used,'' CA's senior cricket operations manager Sean Cary told The Age. "The idea is not going to be just to focus on the Dukes ball in England. Ideally, we'd like to introduce the different makes of balls from countries if they differ from Kookaburra.

"'The first step is to find out whether the ball can handle our conditions, and we can do that in under-age championships, then if they do, work out a strategy to introduce them into senior competitions to help players prepare for upcoming international duty. [When] our Test team travels to India, if we know a number of our Test players are in Shield cricket, why couldn't we introduce the SG ball to help them prepare in competition?''

The use of English and Indian cricket balls may be considered a way of enhancing the preparation of the national team in an era when warm-up tour matches have become an increasingly rare proposition. Australian bowlers have struggled to replicate the kind of movement generated by their English and Indian counterparts on recent Test tours, having not won a series in England since 2001 and India since 2004.

Cary admitted there was also a cost-saving measure to the use of overseas balls, which are cheaper than the Australian-made Kookaburra. The local manufacturers are concerned that their long-standing relationship with Australian cricket will be terminally undercut if the use of overseas balls becomes standard practice.

"If we are not supported by cricket in Australia then Kookaburra won't exist basically," Kookaburra director Rob Elliott said. "If Cricket Australia and if cricket's not supporting Kookaburra and wants to go down the imported path, then the manufacturing of cricket balls will go to the subcontinent and it will be the end of Kookaburra as we know it."

"I thought it would be appropriate for us to be using the only Australian made ball as opposed to a ball that's made in the sub-continent in Pakistan or India. That's the thing that concerns me is that all of a sudden this sort of thing erodes Australian manufacturing and Australian jobs."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by Rolfardeo on (October 25, 2012, 5:24 GMT)

I think that Australia should stick exclusively with Kookaburra balls and everyone should just accept that the use of slightly different balls in different countries is exactly the same as encountering different pitch or weather conditions when teams tour. After all, it is still an even contest - both teams have to use the same type of ball during a series. Do the English and Indian teams complain about having to use a Kookaburra when they tour here? If they do, it is not nearly as much as we seem to complain about the Duke. Everyone just needs to get on with playing cricket.

Posted by heathrf1974 on (October 25, 2012, 5:17 GMT)

@Craig. I think you hit the nail on the head. We need more players playing county.

Posted by Number_5 on (October 25, 2012, 2:06 GMT)

hmm i pretty sure the duke ball was being used from 89 thru to 01. we didnt have any problem winning over there then. We also spent at least a month playing and getting familiar with the conditions (and ball) before the tests and odi's started, maybe thats the problem? oh money thats right... different pitches, conditions and even balls are part of the challenge of cricket from club level to international level. using a ball designed for softer pitches over here on our hard pitches makes about as much sense as putting in a drop in pitch and ripping up the most beautiful cricket ground in the world (adelaide oval) to build a footy stadium. oh hang on, that happened as well...money...not long till the first test at the gabba. cant wait.

Posted by Hammond on (October 25, 2012, 1:04 GMT)

@pomshaveshortmemories- actually, I am an Aussie, and most of my mates have no memory of what happened in the summer of 2010/11, or the year before when South Africa beat us. Maybe amnesia isn't just an English thing?

Posted by   on (October 24, 2012, 22:00 GMT)

If the problem is the way it swings in English conditions then using that ball in Australia isn't going to solve the issue. It means that more Aussies need to start playing county cricket during our winter.

Posted by Ozcricketwriter on (October 24, 2012, 21:13 GMT)

Fearmongering by the Kookaburra company. They can always produce a Kookaburra ball that is Dukes-like, or SG-like. At the end of the day, since 2009 England have had an unfair advantage at home because they get to use the Dukes ball - which, since 2009 has been a very different ball to the Kookaburra. This is designed to level the playing field. I don't think that the SG ball needs to be used but I fully support using the Dukes ball.

Posted by poms_have_short_memories on (October 24, 2012, 20:30 GMT)

England have won ONE series against Australia convincingly since 1986/87.That was in 2010/11, a period of 24 yrs,how many times did Australia embarrass England in that period,i cant remember,lost count i did.a bit of amnesia going on in the UK.

Posted by demon_bowler on (October 24, 2012, 16:44 GMT)

It's not the ball, it's the way it swings in English conditions that the current crop of Aussie batsmen have difficulties with.

Posted by Selassie-I on (October 24, 2012, 15:51 GMT)

"Australia have not won a series in England since 2001" that really rolls off the toung doesn't it. Good idea though to use all of the balls, before the last ashes I know the England team were training with them for quite some time before going to Aus and we all know what the result was then.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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