Cricket, by its very nature, invites plenty of analyses and opinion. In its 21st century model, where the sport is designed for TV audiences, it is more so. And when the number one team in the world lost to England 4-0, analysis had to go into overdrive. And a crash was about to happen. It did, in the form of a theory that it was the 2009 Dukes brand of balls that did in the shining knights of the Indian batting line up.
“Nonsense,” says Dilip Jajodia, Managing Director, British Cricket Balls Limited, the company that manufactures the Dukes balls. “It's an absolutely silly theory, which I think was given credence by the commentators on Sky TV. There is no truth in it.”
Standing in the middle of his factory in Walthamstow in London, Jajodia explains: “There is no change in the process or the raw material of manufacturing a Dukes ball. The only thing we have changed this year is the label on one side. Till last year the balls used to have Dukes logo on one side and the British Standards Institution (BSI) logo on the other. From this year, instead of the BSI logo, we put our other (company) logo. This led to the confusion amongst the English team as they thought we have changed the ball this year. This change has also been intimated to the counties through an e-mail but it seems no one explained this to the players.”
Then how did the theory about the 2009 brand come about? “All our balls have a mark of the year they are manufactured in. For example if the ball was manufactured in 2009 it'd be etched with '9' near the Dukes logo. This is only done for our internal categorisation, and also the England Cricket Board wanted us to do it. As I understand, one of the English bowlers was bowling with the 2009 ball, and for whatever reasons, it must have been swinging more than the latest one. Our changing the label and this particular ball swinging led everyone to think the 2009 brand was swinging more. To make matters worse, the commentators on the sports channel here in the UK gave credence to the story.”
The story gained legs during Sri Lanka’s tour of England and started galloping by the time India were 0-2 down. It was stamped and sealed after the third Test, where India were thrashed by innings & 242 runs.
Post that, on August 18, The Telegraph wrote under the headline: ‘England vs India: what is the secret recipe for England's rise to No. 1?’
“Again, the England management have been proactive, digging up a batch of 2009 Dukes balls because they swung further than the more recent vintages. India’s dinky seamer Praveen Kumar has benefited... but not as much as James Anderson and Stuart Broad...”
Former England wicketkeeper Bob Taylor, the Sales and Marketing head of Dukes, feels a manufacturer can never ensure one ball swung more than the other. The 70-year-old, who played 57 Tests, said: “A mere change in the label has put the seeds of doubt in their minds. If I was merely a player, I’d have thought as much.
“We cricketers are a finicky lot. If you ask a bowler to pick a ball from a box, he’d pick the darkest one. The general belief is that it will swing more than the lighter ones. But the science and facts are far removed from that.” So, it was not the ball. It had to do with talent, skill, hard work and planning. Add to that, lots of carelessness on the part of Indian cricket.
(Dinesh Chopra works for ESPN's Sportscenter)