Scrambling the seam
With the Indian board deciding to use Kookaburra balls in the Duleep Trophy from the upcoming season, one wonders whether this is the beginning of the end for the SG ball. Will modern technology prevail over artisanship? Here we present some contrasting comments from a few cricketers on the issue.
Sachin Tendulkar (August 2003)
"If our boys learn their tricks with the Kookaburra, they will be able to use them to their advantage in international cricket too. Ninety per cent of the countries play with that ball. The bowlers get a different feel, the batters get a different feel and it makes a reasonable difference if you play with that ball."
Wasim Akram on his favourite ball (March 1999)
"Duke, overall, for its hardness, good seam which makes it moves nicely. It's my preference. Kookaburra, on the other hand, becomes soft after a while. The seam flattens out and it is difficult to bowl with it. In Australian conditions, it is not so bad, but on sub-continent wickets and outfields the Kookaburra is not a good choice. It loses shape and does not feel good in the hand."
Waqar Younis (March 2006)
"Kookaburra balls stink in subcontinental conditions. After 20 overs the ball loses its shine and the seam gets flattened."
Angus Fraser (November 1998)
"Whereas the English ball has a pronounced hand-stitched seam, our Aussie counterpart has a thinner, flatter machine-stitched one. Even though the Kookaburra swings more I would say bowlers generally prefer a ball with as big a seam as possible."
Irfan Pathan (April 2005)
"The SG ball definitely does not swing when it is new, but does the reverse when it gets old. Similarly, if you have the Kookaburra balls they swing a lot when they are new."
Fanie de Villers (March 2006)
"Kookaburra's leather is harder, more durable, and I could keep the shine on for much longer than with the Dukes in England. The leather of the Indian ball [SG] damaged so much quicker and it was harder to get normal swing. You also had to work on reverse swing so much more. The Kookaburra lasts longer than the Duke ball. I'm sure this would be the same if it was used in India."
Rashid Latif (February 2005)
"The SG ball gives a lot of assistance to the new-ball bowlers but it is far more dangerous when it becomes older as the bowlers get can get more reverse swing and the spinners also get a lot of turn because of its seam condition. With the Kookaburra ball the problem is that its seam is flattened quickly and even getting reverse swing is difficult since the abrasion does not last and the ball gets softer quickly. Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and even our spinners were very good at utilising the SG balls."
Damien Fleming (August 2005):
"In Australia, the Kookaburra balls do reverse swing but tend to get soft, so the main threats to batsmen are leg-before and bowled. In England, they use Duke balls, which keep their hardness throughout the innings so there is no less bounce, which brings catches behind the wicket."
And lastly, here's what the manufacturer has to say:
Robert Elliot, MD, Kookaburra Sport
"We follow a philosophy that was explained to the company many years ago by cricket administrators that the ball must remain neutral, favouring neither batsman nor bowler."