Got ball?

No one has anything to say about the solutions Chris Ryan proposed to redress the imbalance between bat and ball, vide my post yesterday?

The essential fallacy of Ryan’s argument is that in trying to make life harder for batsmen and give bowlers a bit of a chance, it actually accomplishes the opposite: the first to suffer from a reduction in size of the ball is the bowler himself.

Bowling with the existing size of ball, the bowler finds his thumb and two fingers resting easily over the seam; the position enables the wrist to come into play. Reduce the size of the ball, and the fingers will need to curl inwards, like claws, to get a good grip. Try it out, and you’ll see that curving the fingers in largely takes the wrist out of the equation, and thus reduces both power and control at the time of delivery.

My friend Rahul Bhatia [find him on Twitter here, and on blog here] had, during his Cricinfo stint, once done a story on how the cricket ball is manufactured. Based on that experience, he picks the flows in Ryan’s proposal, and in email suggests a solution of his own:

I had a problem with Ryan’s idea. Changing the shape of the ball doesn’t just affect the batting side, but also bowlers and fielders. They will have to relearn how to throw the ball.

I have another solution: the rubber-cork mixture in the ball? Make it bounce more. Right now ICC ball regulations state that if the ball is dropped from a certain height, it has to bounce back within a particular range. What if the bounce-back exceeded the present range?

There’s also another possible answer to this. Use a thicker thread for the seam. Make it harder, and more pronounced. For ball producers this should be a simple matter of experimentation.

I wrote a story on how cricket balls are made in India, a few years ago. I was struck then by how easily the scales could be tilted. I can think of only one reason why changes haven’t been made to the ball: because whoever’s calling the shots prefers things the way they are.

Of the two solutions Rahul proposes, I like the second one — making the seam more pronounced [and more durable] better. It gives the bowler greater conventional swing and cut with the new ball and more chance of reversing the old one; the spinner gets more grip on the ball, and bite off the deck — in other words, it enhances the bowler’s effectiveness by helping him maximize his skill sets. The other solution — making the ball bounce more — brings with it a bit of a problem: bowlers have over time perfected the ideal length to hit when they are looking to hit the top of off. With a ball that bounces more, they will have to increase that length — and will end up in the half volley zone, playing nicely into the hands of batsmen who really don’t need any additional pampering.


Oh, and there’s a game on and early indications are India is in for a fight to maintain its lead and grab the second win that will put it at the top of the ICC table. The wicket has rolled out into a beauty for batting; Lanka has first strike, and the openers, Dilshan in particular, appear to have forgotten the horrors of the previous game [As I write this, TD has just dismissed Sreesanth with a pulled six, a pulled four, and a wristy flick, all in the midwicket region — indicating among other things just how easy paced this wicket is to bat on] and are off at a pace even a Sehwag would find tough to match.

A leather hunt in the offing — and if the Lankans build their first innings score to sizable proportions — India will have a fight on its hands to just stay in the game. Should be fun; back here with thoughts on the first day at close of play.


10 thoughts on “Got ball?

  1. Since we’re talking wishes were horses here:
    1. Remove bouncer restrictions: Tech’s improved quite a bit where batsmen are sufficiently protected now – its not the same situation like a decade or 2 ago where we had helmets without grills (though they should design the helmet-grill combo properly – remember that Srinath bouncer to Lanke deSilva)?

    2. If we can use linseed oil to improve bat life and stroke making, why can’t we use something other than spit/sweat to do the same for balls? Vaseline anyone? Interestingly, in baseball they actually take the shine OFF the ball prior to each game to give pitchers a better grip –

    I’m probably going to get flamed for the 2 suggestions above, but hey – i’m tired of batsmen coming mid-pitch to fast bowlers …

    I like the seam suggestion though … also, is the stitch pattern also specified in the rule book? can’t they come up with a different stitch that stands out and lasts longer?

  2. Globally (except India and England) the Kookaburra balls are used, which supposedly have a less pronounced seam and stop swinging after 20 overs…Won’t using the Duke or SG Balls globally help tilt the scales a little bit?

    • Ruchik, I don’t know how Duke balls are made, so my answer is based on my knowledge of the methods used to produce SG and Kooka balls: it would be ideal if Kooka made the balls. They do it by machine, and the leather is of a more consistent grade (how well the animals are treated shows in the hide used to produce the ball exterior).

      • Ruchik, Duke has a more pronounced seam than the Kookburra, yes, but only relatively so. Certainly not sufficient to level the playing field. And besides, they use the harder variety of leather; it doesn’t abrade as easily, and so rules out reverse swing pretty much. Once the shine is off, the net result is for the ball to come quite nicely onto the bat.

  3. Prem: Any thoughts on Pakistani players participation in IPL i am surprised there has been no discussion about it but I dont see how we can let the Pakistani players earn money in India when the country has done little on the 26/11 attack.


    • I’m not seriously worried about individual Pakistan players; what I would be opposed to is government-sanctioned bilateral tours/engagements. Banning the odd player does not put any pressure on Islamabad — but keeping its team at bay is a whole other story.

      • True but with the players so keen on the IPL due to the obvious monetary benefits wouldn’t there be any indirect pressure on Islamabad?

  4. Prem

    Theres one more issue with the “more-leather” idea. Once the ball touches the bat, the bounce-from-the-bat and hence the impact of the stroke is going to be more than it is now. Hence, you are going to see more powerful shots and more over-the-field strokes because of that. If you have played with hard tennis balls and soft tennis balls, you will understand what I am talking about.

    • Yeah, there’s that too. I actually like the idea of a pronounced seam. Occasionally the manufacturer goofs and makes some like that. You come across them at the club/league level once in a while — I remember bowling with such on a couple of occasions, and a mercifully brief nightmare of facing someone bowling with a ball where the seam stuck out a mile. Really can help level the playing field, thought Rahul’s idea was perfect — and, for obvious reasons, unlikely ever to be implemented.

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