Kookaburra vs SG ball: Decoding why Indian bowlers struggle overseas

With the 1st Test scheduled to start on January 5, it is highly likely India will play 6 pure batsmen and could also opt for 2 spinners

As India gets ready to take on South Africa at Newlands for the 1st Test, the ‘Kookaburra’ ball has become the talk of the town. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has even gone on record to say that it will be a big disadvantage for the Indian bowlers. So what is a ‘Kookaburra’ ball and how is it different from the Duke or the SG ball despite being of the same shape, size and weight?

Kookaburra vs SG ball
For starters, let me give you a brief about the two balls. The SG balls are handmade while the Kookaburra is machine-made. The subtle differences are in the treatment of the leather surfaces, the thickness and quality of the seam. The SG ball is redder in colour and almost identical to the Duke but hardly swings at all. The Australians were the first to manufacture such machine-made balls.

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The Indian players are used to the SG or the Duke ball because of which the Indian seamers are hesitant to bowl with a Kookaburra ball. So how would using the Kookaburra ball affect India who have four pacers in their squad and a medium pacer in Hardik Pandya?

Spinners not in the equation:
Traditionally, India relies heavily on their spinners. The Indian spinners take the majority of wickets to win the matches. But when abroad, they do not get to bowl with an SG ball which has a pronounced seam movement off the pitch and the Kookaburra ball does not provide that. Indian bowlers also struggle overseas because they do not get those rank-turners.

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No Reverse Swing with Kookaburra:
When one side of the SG ball roughens up, it allows reverse swing. Indian bowlers like Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma are decent exponents of the reverse swing. But in overseas conditions, the Kookaburra does not allow that. The SG ball is beneficial to the fast bowlers as well who can bend to extract swing and seam movement off the surface. This is another reason why Indian bowlers struggle overseas.

Batsmen at ease post 35-40 overs:
The Indian bowlers also struggle overseas because the Kookaburra ball becomes ridiculously easy to play with after the initial 35-40 overs in Test matches. Indian bowlers, who generally don’t hit-the-deck-hard, find it difficult to extract anything off the pitch.

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With the 1st Test scheduled to start on January 5 at Newlands, Cape Town, it is highly likely India will play 6 pure batsmen and could also opt for 2 spinners.