After India lost to England in the first Test by 227 runs on an uneven Day 5 Chepauk track in Chennai, Indian captain Virat Kohli expressed his dissatisfaction with the Sanspareils Greenlands (SG) ball used in the Test.
Close-up pictures of the ball that were shown on TV showed how the leather was coming off, with the stitches on the seam giving way.
A Test match ball is supposed to last at least 80 overs, without any significant deterioration such that the nature of the ball changes completely and is extremely difficult to handle, especially for the bowling team.
“Quality of the ball (SG-Test) was also not what we were very pleased to see as that was also the case in the past. Just the ball completely being destroyed in 60 overs is not something that you experience as a Test side and any side could be prepared for,” Kohli said after the match.
One thing that has stood out in this entire conversation about the SG balls used is the abrasive nature of the Chepauk pitch that seems to have played a big role also in the swift deterioration of the balls.
On Monday, which was Day 4 of the Test, Indian off spinner R Ashwin, who took nine wickets in the match, had also spoken about how the ball began to wear off.
“I have never seen an SG ball tear (get torn) through the seam like that. So it could well be a combination of how hard the pitch was on the first two days, even in the second innings after the 35th-40th over, the seam was getting sort of peeled off
“It was bizarre, I mean, I haven’t seen an SG ball like that in (the) last so many years, but yeah, maybe it could be due to the pitch and the hardness of it through the centre which is making the ball get scuffed up.” Ashwin further said.
The Indian cricketers were clearly surprised to see how quickly the balls wore off. Virat though made it clear that this was not an excuse for the loss and that England just played better cricket than the home team in the first Test.
TimesofIndia.com spoke to Paras Anand, Director of cricket equipment manufacturer Sanspareil Greenlands, which is based in Meerut, about what the Indian cricketers had to say about the SG ball.
According to him the company sees criticism from the players as feedback and would use that now to improve the quality of the balls.
Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah talk to the umpire during Day 1 of the first Test in Chennai. (PTI Photo)
Reacting to Ashwin’s statement, Anand said, “He (Ashwin) said ‘I had never seen the ball tear like this, it could be because of the surface’, that is a big statement in itself. Rather than passing the judgement, we would be open to feedback and based on the feedback, we actually get down to see how abrasive the surface was, we can work on improving the quality of the balls.”
“I have only seen the track on TV, I haven’t been on the track to see how hard it was, but even Ishant (Sharma) mentioned it after getting his 300th wicket. He said the first innings, which was like two and a half days, felt like ‘I am bowling on a road’, so it was that hard.” Anand further told TimesofIndia.com.
There were reports earlier that SG had manufactured a fresh set of balls for the India-England series, with a more pronounced seam and a harder cork base. But Anand clarified that the balls being used in the current series are not a new set.
James Anderson was the star for England with the SG ball. (BCCI/PTI Photo)
In fact, as he pointed out one of the balls was used for 104 overs.
“It is not a new ball, it is a ball based on the feedback we had improved upon over the last two and a half years. The ball didn’t lose its shape and hence (was) not changed and the second ball that India used when Ishant got his two wickets (off consecutive deliveries), that ball was used for 104 overs. The first ball was changed in the 81st over, the second ball was used for 104 overs, which shows that whatever work we have done in the last two and a half years is giving us a result that even on such a hard and slow wicket and one that was abrasive on the fourth and fifth day, the ball retained its shape and was travelling (on the outfield), which was quite apparent.
Anand though pointed out that despite what the company position might be, feedback from players is something that has to be taken into account and that going ahead SG will use that to improve the quality of the balls used.
The big problem of course seems to be the seam. If that starts coming off, the nature of the whole ball is bound to change as it keeps getting knocked around by heavy bats.
“The only concern here for us also is obviously the players feel that the thread was tearing, that is something that we will take as feedback and we’ll work on it, that even if the wicket is abrasive what can we do to the seam that it doesn’t get affected if it is very hard and abrasive. Even Jimmy Anderson said that the wicket is really abrasive and it will help us to swing the ball early.” Anand told TimesofIndia.com.
Third Test will see the use of the pink ball. (TOI Photo)
Going ahead, another big test for the SG balls will be the Day-Night Test vs England, which will be the third Test of the series that will be played in Ahmedabad. For this match it will be the pink SG balls which will be used.
This will be just the second Day-Night Test India will play at home, after the November 2019 match at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata vs Bangladesh which finished in three days.
“The pink ball played very well (in the first Test against Bangladesh in November 2019). The result was very good last time, we won in three days, the ball held its shape pretty well. That time also Ishant bowled very well.” Anand said.
The Ahmedabad track will be different to the one in Kolkata. England also are a much stronger opposition than Bangladesh and the match will be expected to last more than three days. The third Test vs England, for all intents and purposes, will be the biggest test of the SG pink ball.