Joe Root-led England may have eased to a thumping 227-run win over India in the first Test at Chepauk, but the loss has opened up criticism from hosts' skipper Virat Kohli and teammate Ravichandran Ashwin on the quality of the SG balls being used during the Test series.
Since 1994, all Test matches being played in India have been played with Meerut-based Sanspareils Greenlands (SG) balls, which are handmade.
According to a report in The Indian Express a day before the first Test, it was said that the SG balls would offer ‘pronounced seam’ and a ‘harder core’, but Ashwin expressed disappointment, lamenting that he found it bizarre that the ball’s stitches came off the seam and went soft within the first 40 overs.
"In this game the ball was pretty bizarre for us. Because I've never seen an SG ball tear through the seam like that," Ashwin had said after the fourth day's play in Chennai.
“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 started to sort of peel off. It was bizarre. 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 hardness of it... But we will have an answer for it going through the series," the off-spinner added.
Kohli also echoed similar views after the end of the opening Test, saying, “The wicket was flat and slow and the quality of the ball as well wasn’t something that we were very pleased to see because that has been an issue in the past as well. Just for the ball’s seam to be completely destroyed in 60 overs is not something that you experience as a Test side and something any Test side could be prepared for,” the skipper said.
The first Test was played on a very flat and slow Chepauk surface, and the seam of the SG ball had started loosening even before the 50th over.
The Indian bowlers, in fact were made to sweat after Kohli lost the toss, having bowled almost 191 overs across over two days, as England piled on 578. Despite the deterioration of the ball during the English innings, the umpires did not change the ball at all, although India took two new balls (81st and 186th overs).
On Tuesday, SG marketing director Paras Anand said that they were ready to listen to players’ feedback. “We have heard what the feedback is and we will work on ensuring that even if the wicket is as hard and abrasive as the Chennai wicket, the ball remains good. If the seam is tearing after 50 to 60 overs, possibly the wicket could be the reason,” Anand told The Indian Express.
“Every week, we test balls on different surfaces, post 50 overs, post 60 overs. We have a wicket in the factory which is a very hard one. We test it there, then there is a lab test and a field. We ensure high quality in the manufacturing process. But we will listen to the players,” he added.
In a report on ESPNCricinfo, Anand added that the pitch in Chepauk was the major reason for the ball’s wear and tear.
"It is mostly to do with the surface," Anand had said in that report.
However, despite the criticism from players, Anand said that the SG ball’s performance was ‘top-notch’.
"At our end we have ensured the quality and performance of the SG Test ball is top notch. The first new ball was changed after 81 overs and the second new ball lasted 104 overs. I did not see the balls being changed. That is a good sign, which means the ball was holding shape.
"Because the wicket was really hard, which everybody is accepting, it is very difficult for the leather, a natural substance and not the hardest thing, to naturally wear and tear. So the expectation that a 40, 50 or a 60-overs old ball to behave like a 10-over old ball is not going to happen,” Anand added.
This is not the first time the duo of Kohli and Ashwin has critcised the usage of SG balls.
While Ashwin was left ‘pretty disappointed’, Kohli had criticised SG balls during a home Test series against West Indies in October 2018, lamenting that the ball would get scuffed up quickly and deteriorate players’ performance. Kohli had, as a result, batted for the usage of Dukes balls in Tests across the globe.
The next Test between India and England will commence from Saturday in Chennai. England lead the series 1-0.
Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.
All you need to know about the third Test between India and England set to be played at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad.
Trott didn't want to get into the blame game and said things could have been different if England would have batted well in the first innings.
India vs England Live Score: Get latest cricket score and live updates, ball by ball commentary of Ind vs Eng 4th Test match being played at Narendra Modi Stadium, Motera.