SG TEST vs. KOOKABURRA

During 2006-07, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) permitted the use of the Kookaburra brand of balls in the Duleep Trophy for the first time on an experimental basis. This was done at the behest of Rahul Dravid, then captain of the Indian team.-V. SREENIVASA MURTHY During 2006-07, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) permitted the use of the Kookaburra brand of balls in the Duleep Trophy for the first time on an experimental basis. This was done at the behest of Rahul Dravid, then captain of the Indian team.

Fundamentally, the Kookaburra and the SG Test bear contrasting qualities. The Kookaburra, unlike its hand-crafted Indian counterpart, doesn’t have a prominent seam. As it gets old and the seam begins to vanish, spinners find it hard to grip. By Arun Venugopal.

Six years after it was introduced in the Duleep Trophy, the use of the Kookaburra ball in the competition was dispensed with this season. The Duleep was the only domestic tournament in India that employed the red Kookaburra instead of the SG Test ball.

During 2006-07, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) permitted the use of the Kookaburra brand of balls in the Duleep Trophy for the first time on an experimental basis. This was done at the behest of Rahul Dravid, then captain of the Indian team. Keeping in mind India’s tour to South Africa later that year and the team’s ever-increasing overseas assignments, he felt the need for players to be familiar with the machine-stitched Kookaburra. Almost every Test-playing nation, barring England (Duke) and India, plays with the Kookaburra manufactured in Australia (the Kookaburra white ball is used in limited-overs matches across the world).

Subsequently, Dravid suggested to the BCCI its use in one of the domestic competitions. The Duleep Trophy, an inter-zonal competition, was zoomed in on as the cream of Indian talent played in the tournament. “Rahul Dravid had earlier suggested that we experiment with the red Kookaburra ball in one of the domestic competitions. Therefore, the committee decided that we try it out in the 2006-07 Duleep Trophy,” Niranjan Shah, then Secretary of the BCCI, said at that time.

Fundamentally, the Kookaburra and the SG Test bear contrasting qualities. The Kookaburra, unlike its hand-crafted Indian counterpart, doesn’t have a prominent seam. As it gets old and the seam begins to vanish, spinners find it hard to grip. Besides, the Kookaburra offers barely any reverse swing and tends to abrade quickly. The best bet is to pound the wicket hard with the new ball — an approach that may not always be helpful on Indian surfaces. The SG Test is a spinners’ delight and it also reverses that much more.

A major hurdle in the use of the Kookaburra is the format of the Duleep Trophy itself. Structured as a knockout tournament, a team — at best — gets to play three matches (provided it plays the quarterfinal and goes on to reach the final).

While Dravid’s initiative revealed a vision for the future, it hasn’t been backed by proactive action from the powers that be. After all, playing two or three games with the Kookaburra every year isn’t going to help cricketers get used to the ball.

“The captains of State sides said in a meeting that they wanted to play with the SG Test. Test cricket in India is played with the SG Test, that’s the only thing behind it,” says Sourav Ganguly.-VIVEK BENDRE

Sourav Ganguly, who was the chairman of the Technical Committee when the decision to revert to the SG Test was made, told Sportstar that it was the cricketers who wanted the change. “The captains of State sides said in a meeting that they wanted to play with the SG Test. Test cricket in India is played with the SG Test, that’s the only thing behind it.”

Couldn’t such a decision have been made much earlier? “You tried something and now you want to go back (to the original idea).”

Veteran left-arm spinner Murali Kartik said it was difficult for the spinners to bowl with the Kookaburra.

“In any case, playing with the ball once a year doesn’t build muscle memory. I reckon spinners will suffer if you play with the Kookaburra on Indian surfaces. The batsmen are going to score triple hundreds and quadruple hundreds,” he laughed.

“They (technical committee) should haveensured players get to play a bit more with the Kookaburra rather than go to the other extreme and scrap its use,” says Aakash Chopra, Himachal Pradesh skipper.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

Himachal Pradesh skipper and columnist Aakash Chopra felt it wasn’t right to do away with the idea completely. “They (technical committee) should have ensured players get to play a bit more with the Kookaburra rather than go to the other extreme and scrap its use. What went wrong, in my view, were the pitches. If you have to improve the competition: 1. there needs to be more than one match and 2. there should be a window where no International match takes place at that time, when all the top players are available.”

Chopra, however, added that the tournament was past its sell-by date and Ranji Trophy needed to be strengthened instead. “In my opinion, Duleep Trophy should be scrapped. Once you have that window available, it frees three to four weeks of the domestic calendar. You can also get rid of the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament. If you have these five or six weeks, you can spread the Ranji Trophy in a manner that will help curators prepare better wickets and help teams recuperate.

“Every alternate round should be played with Kookaburra in the Ranji. That way you get adequate practice with the ball. If we just want to be a brilliant home team, then we should play only on rank turners. If you harbour hopes of changing things overseas, then you have to consistently work towards it.”