What started off as an experiment, and what many believed could set a trend for the cricket-ball industry in India, appears to have descended into farce. The Indian board decided to try out Kookaburra balls during the ongoing Duleep Trophy but it's learnt, even as the final looms, that the execution of the plan went completely awry.
What's left several players sour is that no Kookaburra balls were provided when the teams practiced before the games, requiring them to get used to the new cherry in match conditions. Bowlers were left to practice with the traditional Sanspereil Greenlands (SG) balls prior to the games, only to be confronted with the Kookaburra when the game got underway.
"Only today, just a day before the final, we were provided with two Kookaburra balls for practice," a North Zone player told Cricinfo. "Just two but this is a huge improvement, considering that we were only given balls during match before in this tournament. There are not enough old balls available. With SG each association had not only the new balls for the match but also enough old balls for practice. But they have not been given any Kookaburra balls and we have all suffered. Imagine practising with a different ball [SG] and then going into match to play with another brand which is completely different."
At Guwahati, the venue where East Zone took on North, events took a bizarre turn when there weren't enough balls during the game. As a result it was decided not to change the balls even if they went out of shape. Players from the South and Central Zones, teams that didn't make it to the final, also endorsed the same view. "Luckily, I had couple of Kookaburra balls with me," said a Central Zone player, "and we used it for practice." Another player, this time from South, mentioned how the bowlers took some time to adjust to the ball on the first day, struggling to get their rhythm going. "We would have loved to get Kookaburra balls for practice," he said, "but luckily most of us knew what we can expect. So we managed to adjust quickly."
The Indian board, though, has rubbished these complaints. "The players are talking nonsense," said Ratnakar Shetty, the recently appointed chief administrative officer. Shetty, however, refused any further comment.
The tournament has had more problems as well. Lack of practice pitches have meant that some players have entered games without any chance to gear up. At Guwahati, East Zone players suffered because one of the practice pitches was unfit for use while the other was being used by a local team. Their opponents, North Zone, were scheduled to practice at the evening and luckily got to play on that "decent" strip.
The staying conditions have not been satisfactory either, even for the final. At Kolkata, there is power shortage at the team hotel where North Zone are staying. And the back-up only powers up a fan and tubelight which means that the players have to do without television and, of course, air-conditioning.
And in case you forgot, this is one of the premier domestic tournaments in India.