Much hoopla has been made over R Ashwin's 'mystery' Sudoku ball in Australia. The only thing it has in common with the Japanese logic-based, number-placement game is that they are both puzzles.
The delivery, more popularly called the carrom ball, involves placing the middle finger underneath the ball and flicking it like a carrom, and hence the name. The ball was pioneered by Australia's Jack Iverson, a cricketer shrouded in mystery. What then is the etymology of the Sudoku ball?
The name originated from an onomatopoeic Tamil term which Ashwin used to describe the ball - Sudaka - which means 'flick of the fingers', a word which mimics the sound of a finger flicking a carrom.
With the finer details lost in translation, the host broadcasters Channel 9 labelled it the Sudoku ball, puzzling viewers and even Ashwin. When recently asked by HT if he had added any new variations to his bowling, the so-called Sudoku ball, he shrugged his shoulders. "There are is no mystery ball. I'm just trying to evolve as a spinner, trying to improve day by day. Anything I find interesting, I try and give it a good shot," Ashwin said in a press conference on Tuesday.
Channel 9 commentator Mark Taylor acknowledged the etymology of the term. "I was talking to a few Indian journalists and they told me how the Sudoku ball name came about from a word in Ashwin's native tongue, Tamil," said Taylor.
The carrom ball was introduced by Iverson, who learnt the trick while on Army service in New Guinea during World War II. He perfected the technique by flicking a table tennis ball, and later used the same technique on a cricket ball. After the war, he made his first class debut in 1949 at the ripe age of 34, his Test debut a year later, taking 21 at 15.23 in his only series. He retired after just five seasons of first class cricket taking 157 wickets in his 34 matches at an average of under 20. He committed suicide in 1973, but not before passing on the tricks of his trade to John Gleeson, who went to play 29 Tests for Australia.
PS: Former skipper Sourav Ganguly cautioned Ashwin that he should used the carrom ball sparingly to make sure it does not affect his main delivery - the off-spinner. He said Harbhajan at one point lost his off-break because he was working on variations like the 'doosra'.