NO BALL GAMES: IS THERE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL FOR SG?
From Matthew Hayden’s extra-long handle Mongoose to Denis Lillee’s aluminium bat, there has been an endless debate on the sizes and the quality of the bats since one can sit back and recall. They have always been under the scanner due to the unrelenting domination of T20 cricket and the growing perception amongst the fans that the game is essentially becoming a batsman’s world. Additionally, ICC just recently revised the regulations for the dimensions of the bats which can be used for international and domestic matches.
On the flip side, the red and white cherry hasn’t received any attention at all. The weight, diameter and the material have hardly received any upgrade in the modern cricketing era.
Dukes, Kookaburra and SG are the predominant brands for cricket balls worldwide, with their usage varying on the general weather conditions and pitches a particular country has to offer. While England and the West Indies use the seamer-friendly Dukes, Australia, South Africa, Pakistan, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe use the Kookaburra whose seam is almost flattened out and India uses the homemade SG Cricket balls. All of these have their own pros and cons and the aforementioned continental variances.
Give the Dukes to Jimmy Anderson and he’ll make a batsman look like a headless chicken by swinging it all corners. A Kookaburra and Mitch Johnson is as deadly as it can get as he’ll scare the living hell out of any batter by making them smell the leather and an onsong Ravichandran Ashwin with an SG on a dry pitch is bound to wreak havoc.
However, the Indian manufacturer, SG (Sanspareils Greenlands) has received serious flak due to its propensity to get softer after 45 overs into a Test match. In 2018, Virat Kohli criticised the same quality of the ball and publicly asked the BCCI to make Dukes as the official provider for the International Test matches in India.
After the complaint from the Indian captain, SG improved upon the quality of the balls to make them more durable and produce better balls for the current homes season. They got some respite when during the post-match presentation of the first Test match, Kohli said that the bowlers were much happier with the overall nature of the balls but they would like it to remain much harder than its current capacity.
SG balls first came into scrutiny when India’s premier off spinner, R. Ashwin simply stated that he was “pretty disappointed” with it after the Test match against the Windies in Rajkot. The skipper added to the critique and backed the prolific bowler.
“To have a ball scuffed up in five overs is not something that we have seen before, the quality of the ball used to be quite high before and I don’t understand the reason why it’s gone down. A Dukes ball is still good quality, Kookaburra is still good quality – whatever limitations a Kookaburra might have, the quality is never compromised.”
Finding themselves in the midst of this heavy stick, SG agreed to address the issue by raising the seam.
A representative from the Meerut-based company quoted, “As I understand, the main issue is the seam of the ball, the players want a more prominent seam. We can raise it by 1 mm or 1.5 mm. It isn’t something that can’t be done. After the series is over, we will sit with the BCCI and see what they have to say,”
Things now seem to be in control as the World No.1 team in Tests is fairly satisfied with state of the balls in the ongoing Test series against South Africa. But the room for improvement continues to be massive as the problem exists not only around the seam, but also with the leather. With the Test viewership under scrutiny, it cannot afford to produce uninspiring sessions anymore and the major culprit for such situations has been the softness of the ball after 50 overs.
In conclusion, all is not lost for SG as it has been given a lifeline. Keeping the nostalgia aside of SG’s balls being played with in every nook and cranny of India’s cricket scene, one hopes they start delivering to the standards they have set for themselves since their inception.