The ‘endangered’ cricket ball

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Kolkata: Do you know that the cherry coloured ball, which Bhuvneshwar Kumar will gently rub on his pants before running a couple of steps and hurling it towards Pakistani opener Ahmed Shehzad at Birmingham, is an endangered artifact? Well, indeed, the cherry red ball, comprising a cork neatly encased in a leather case, stitched neatly together at its seam by strings and then polished to be sold for cricketers, both professional and amateurs, is one of the worst hit good, post cow vigilantism hit its prime.

Lynching people on suspicion of cow slaughter had already dented the business of cricket balls.  The latest regulations brought into effect by the central government to tighten the screws on cattle traders seems to be like a death blow to the once flourishing business. The crisis has forced the sellers to shoot the price of this ball by a 100 percent.

Business is in shambles now

Take the example of Rakesh Mahajan, a Kanpur-based cricket ball manufacturer. His sprawling cricket ball making business is in shambles today. Mahajan, the director of BD Mahajan & Sons Private Limited, a leading manufacturer of the cherry red ball, says, “My business is almost over. I am at the moment incurring a 90 per cent loss. There are no cow hides in the market. So, how are we going to make these balls? The cricket season is approaching and my workshops are shut. No one wants to work for us, even when we are importing cow hides from Australia and other countries. The workers are afraid of being attacked by vigilants.”

Another Meerut-based manufacturer, on condition of anonymity said, “The ban on cow slaughter has killed the market. Now, the demand for balls is high but we are unable to produce them. Production cost has shot up as we now have to import cow hide.”

No hide, like cow hide

Can’t any other hide be used for making the cricket ball? To that Mahajan says, “No other hide can be used. We have tried using the buffalo skin. It’s just too thick. The government should come up with a technology, which can process buffalo skin to have a cow hide like texture.”

Well, Mahajan has a point. Rob Elliot of Kookaburra, an Australian sports goods manufacturer, too had experimented with the idea of making cricket balls from camel hide. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, back in 2012, he said, “Camel hide, just didn’t have the right characteristics.

Cricket ball gets dearer

Back home, with cricket season approaching, most of the sports good dealers are anticipating a decline in supply. “At the moment, the demand for cricket ball is low. But with monsoon approaching there will be a huge demand for this ball. We don’t have that much in stock to meet the demand. The manufacturing units are rolling down their shutters. As a consequence we will witness a steep rise in its price. They could cost a hundred or two more than their usual price, for the coming season. But we also know that because of the ongoing beef ban issue, either non availability of the cricket ball or huge scarcity is going to plague the market,” said a sports goods dealer in Giridih.

Cricket is a national religion in India, and non-availability of cow leather will directly impact the game, so for the lovers of the game, there is an interesting time ahead.

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