The Indian Premier League (IPL) has a connect for the global cricket community. Its international connect is not restricted to just the foreign players but also the cricket balls that are used in the matches. Around 1500 are used each year and these are manufactured in Melbourne by Kookaburra. It is a 40-minute drive from the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground to the Chesterville Road, which houses a 127-year-old business of sports equipment called Kookaburra. The building, modern in its structure yet historical in its roots houses equipment used by different generation of cricketers, including former Australia captain Ian Chappell. History and modernity reside here hand in hand.
Kookaburra has played a key role in Australia's cricketing history and now they have extended the connect to India. A few years back, faced with stiff competition at home they took the fight to the sub-continent and established a factory in Meerut.
The biggest coup was getting the deal to manufacture the balls for the Indian Premier League (IPL). Today, Kookaburra has a major presence in the Rs 50 crore cricket ball manufacturing market in India.
"We have been involved with the IPL since inception. The BCCI use our white balls for ODI cricket and this is just an extension really," says Shannon Gill, the Head of Communications. "I think we do that the best to keep the balls consistent over 20 overs. We want to make sure that we keep improving. We love our association with the IPL and we know it is the greatest cricket show on the earth."
This is where the white cricket balls were pioneered around 1977 when Kerry Packer met the owner of the factory with the proposal of playing cricket in the night. The makers then tested with various colours, from yellow to orange and finally stuck with white with green seam. Ian Chappell was one of the first to test the white balls ahead of World Series Cricket (WSC).
Gill said while displaying some of the old, worn out balls from the WSC that lie in their archives, "VFL Park was where World Series Cricket was played. Ian Chappell was a part of it. They turned on the lights and had a centre wicket session and checked what could be seen under the lights, and they realised white balls were the most visible. From that point onwards white ball cricket started. That was the genesis of the white ball and today that white ball is used in IPL."
While the ongoing edition of the IPL has seen bowlers shine in the death overs, the debate on the dominance of the bat over the ball continues. Kookaburra, once in the middle of a huge controversy over installing graphite on bats and having to reverse them after MCC's objections, aren't shy of experimenting with the balls if the authorities want them to.
"With T20 cricket the authorities are happy with the way it is currently. But the debate of the bat's dominance over the ball does concern us. We are always monitoring that. Ultimately that is up to the ICC, if they want that shifted. We experiment with all sort of little tweaks but it is hard for us to do anything too drastic unless the cricketers want them. We monitor it, we are in constant touch with them," says Gill.