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Joe Root: Kookaburra ball experiment can 'help bridge gap' to Tests

"There's a lot of good that can come from it if guys have the right attitude," says former England captain

Joe Root works one to the leg side, Middlesex vs Yorkshire, County Championship, Division Two, Lord's, April 19, 2024

Joe Root was positive about using the Kookaburra ball in county cricket  •  Getty Images

Joe Root has backed the use of the Kookaburra ball in the County Championship, believing it can help upskill domestic cricketers and bridge the gap to Test cricket.
The Australian-made ball was used for the first two rounds of the Championship season, in which there were 17 draws across 18 matches. Though a large part of that was down to rain - Durham vs Hampshire and Derbyshire vs Gloucestershire were abandoned without a ball bowled - players complained the flatter seam was ineffective on damp, soft pitches and that the ball lost its shape quickly, compared to the regular Dukes.
Those first two sets of fixtures saw a wicket fall every 73.7 balls, compared to 54.9 balls in the first two rounds of 2023. Among a large volume of runs was more playing time for spinners, with Surrey legspinner Cameron Steel topping the wicket-taker charts. The Kookaburra will return for another two rounds in August and September, when better weather should help produce firmer surfaces and lend itself to a fairer assessment.
The Kookaburra trial, one of the recommendations from Andrew Strauss' high-performance review to encourage fast bowlers and spinners, began in 2023. While panned in some quarters - Surrey director of cricket Alec Stewart regards the experiment as "the worst decision ever" - England men's managing director Rob Key has suggested the Kookaburra could replace the Dukes as the domestic ball of choice.
Root, who recently completed a five-game stint with Yorkshire - his first County Championship appearances since 2022 - has plenty of experience with the Kookaburra overseas, particularly in Australia, and sees the benefit of its use in England, not just for the Test side.
"I don't think it's all about being able to use the Kookaburra ball when you go to Australia or South Africa," Root said. "I think it's about finding ways of taking wickets when nothing's in your favour - and that's a great skill."
"I guess you could look at it and think: 'there's been a load of draws' but also you could think: 'well, this is an opportunity to upskill' as well. 'How am I going to take wickets with this ball in this format on these kinds of pitches? How can I become better?'
"I think there's a lot of good that can come from it if guys have the right attitude."
Root cited England's progression in limited-overs cricket since 2015 as something that could be replicated by regular use of the Kookaburra. The evolution under Eoin Morgan, which saw ODI and T20I World Cup success in 2019 and 2022 respectively, trickled down and has resulted in a pool of high-calibre white-ball cricketers, many of whom missed out on selection for next month's T20 World Cup.
"Look at the progression and the development in white-ball cricket in this country over a five-year period. Look at the amount of players that we've got that can do special things. Look how quickly that transition has been made through the mindset shift in white-ball cricket in our country. I think the same thing can happen in red-ball cricket.
"You've got to be open minded enough and understand that you might have to go through a little bit of pain to get there.
"If we want to keep upskilling and getting the standard as close to Test cricket as we can, it's not going to happen overnight. But in five, six, seven years' time, if we can bridge that gap then that transition for guys coming into Test cricket will be a lot smaller."

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo