No sooner had Indian spinner Ravichandran Ashwin made clear his displeasure about the SG balls used in Team India’s humbling defeat against England in the first test in Chennai than the conversation had again started about cricket balls. Today, we take a deeper look at the three types of cricket balls used in Test matches in different parts of the world.
The Three Companies
In international cricket, different cricket balls are used in test matches in different countries. The three main manufacturers of the cricket ball over the world are: Sanspareil Greenlands or SG, Dukes cricket ball by British Cricket Balls Limited and the Kookaburra Cricket Ball.
While the SG balls have an exclusive contract with the BCCI and manufacture balls to all domestic matches and test matches in India, the Dukes balls are used for test cricket in England, Ireland and the West Indies. On the other hand, the Kookaburra balls have a much wider usage with it being used in test cricket in Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Zimbabwe.
SG have enjoyed a monopoly in India in matters related to cricket balls for domestic first class matches and international test matches since 1994. Established in 1931 by two brothers, Kedarnath Anand and Dwarkanatha Anand, the SG brand has since made large strides to be established as one of the top cricket equipment brands in the world.
These hand-made balls are stitched with a prominent seam that has threads which have been stitched closer than the Kookaburra balls. The thread used to stitch the seam is much thicker than the other balls. However, these balls have come across criticism in recent years from players like Ravichandran Ashwin and Virat Kohli who pointed to how fast the seam of the SG ball had deteriorated in just a few overs and how the ball had gone soft very fast. Based on players’ feedback, SG introduced a new ball for the 2021 England Tour of India.
Apart from being a darker shade of red, the new ball has an even more pronounced and raised seam and the hardness of the cork on the inside of the ball has also been increased. These changes were so that the bowlers would get better grip and for the ball’s seam to last longer. However, the ball is still proving problematic as per Ashwin, so it remains to be seen what the future holds for SG balls.
With the origins of this ball going back to the 1760’s, the British Cricket Balls Limited has been manufacturing cricket balls for a very long time in England. The company is now headed by Indian businessman Dilip Jajodia who bought the company from Gray-Nichols in 1987.
Endorsed by Virat Kohli and many other cricketers, the Dukes cricket ball is hand-stitched where the seam has consistently been known to be more prominent and stay longer on the ball. Favoured by swing bowlers all over the world, the Dukes ball has six rows of stitching that go back and forth across the area of the joint where the two cups of the ball come together. This results in the ball retaining shape and not losing its hardness for a very long time. However, because it is primarily used in England, it remains to be seen how the ball does on dry and turning pitches of the Indian subcontinent.
Founded in 1890, Kookaburra cricket balls are the most widely used balls in international cricket. The main difference of this ball is that it is primarily machine-made, where the two outside rows of the seams are machine-stitched while the two inner rows are hand-stitched. Yet, the ball doesn’t swing as much as the Dukes because the seam is majorly embedded in the cork surface of the ball. The hand stitched inner rows also mean that these hold the two cups of the bowl together, while the outer seams are there to provide grip to the bowlers. As a result, pronounced seams are missing in Kookaburra balls because machine stitching can only take place when the ball shape is flatter. However, one major drawback of Kookaburra is that it has been known to lose its shine and shape.
A healthy competition amongst the three major ball makers is always expected and would be beneficial to the gentleman’s game. Yet, decisions on one ball for test cricket seems a distant future as different balls favour different conditions.