There is something wrong with the Dukes ball this season, the brand of the ball to be used in India’s one-off Test match against England. They haven’t swung much as they have gone soft rather quickly and been changed numerous times.
Stuart Broad has compared it to a “rolled-up plasticine”, the commentators have groaned on air about its shape, Kane Williamson’s men have repeatedly complained to the umpires about it, and it has been changed numerous times in a game over the last county season and in the England’s series against New Zealand. In a county game between Durham and Glamorgan this year, the ball was changed 11 times, including five in one day.
Dilip Jajodia, the owner of the company that manufactures the Dukes ball, says though they haven’t identified the definite cause for the balls losing shape as yet, he suspects its due to problems in the tanning process.
“My guess is, there’s some technical problem in the process of tanning which goes back months. We actually still haven’t identified what the problem is. Because the process of tanning and colouration is very important and if something goes wrong, if somebody adds a certain percentage of chemical that’s not quite right, the dye comes from another manufacturer; all these little things affect natural raw material…
“This is not a machine-engineered product. This is a hand-made, crafted product. If a problem occurs, then you have to live with it. You have to work your way through it. And I can tell you, we are managing the problem,” Jajodia tells The Indian Express.
Just ahead of the Test series against New Zealand, Broad was openly critical of the ball in his column. “They have not swung and because they are going soft very quickly, neither is there any bounce,” Broad wrote in his Mail on Sunday column. “Things have been so bad that we have had to change the ball two or three times every innings. It has felt like bowling with a rolled-up piece of Plasticine and the balls are that soft you feel like you can squeeze them even before you have bowled a ball with them. In the first innings against Derbyshire this week, the ball went out of shape after 3.3 overs and was changed after eight.”
Jajodia’s answer to Broad’s accusations starts with a light dig, before he admits there has been some problem with the raw material this season.
“Hang on a minute. Mr Broad also, every time he appeals, he thinks that the batsman is out, irrespective of the umpire’s opinion. Look, we put our hands up. We don’t really know exactly what the problem is. We have an issue with the leather. Now, it’s a natural raw material and the journey for the product to be made is a long one. It goes back to the Covid era when the tannery was possibly short of staff or they substituted a chemical. Who knows? We don’t know. We are trying to pin it down. But once that leather is in the process, you can’t suddenly change course,” Jajodia says.
He reacts to players’ dissatisfaction with a hint of sarcasm. “When you notice, it’s always when they aren’t getting wickets (they complain). Now it has become a standard practice. In fact, there’s a very good suggestion from (senior journalist) Scyld Berry, that like the DRS, there should be a limitation on appeal for changing the ball, because this is becoming a joke. This has become a group thing. In Australia, they have had a fourth umpire with spare balls for years. They change the ball all the time.
“We are very proud to say that our cricket balls are perfectly good. When you have got an inherent problem with the raw material, there’s nothing you can do apart from use all your knowledge – press the cups harder, do the milling, which is what we are doing. And gradually, it will work itself out of the system. I can’t suddenly, miraculously produce new balls that won’t go out of shape and will be perfect. But having said all that, there were three results, good games of cricket and the only inconvenience was seeing the man coming on every now and again to change the ball.”