Mitchell Johnson: How the Dukes ball can benefit Australian cricket
On the last Ashes tour to England in 2015, I was getting the Dukes ball to swing and I thought you beauty. I’m in the game here.
But I couldn’t do it as well as Jimmy Anderson because he could set batsmen up better.
The reason was I wasn’t used to the ball swinging so much.
My plan was to swing the ball into the right hander every ball and go across them occasionally.
The English batsmen then set up for that.
I was trying to get wickets every ball when it was swinging and they were set up to keep me out.
So I had to bowl a miracle ball really.
You can definitely search for wickets too much. When you look at Anderson and Stuart Broad and the way they bowled, they weren’t trying to do that.
A team’s game plan with a swinging ball can be completely different, which is why the Dukes trial for the remainder of the Sheffield Shield season is a good idea.
Ideally, I’d like to see a Kookaburra ball that swings, but that’s not happening at the moment.
The problems with Kookaburra balls in recent seasons have been well documented. There’s a theory going around that the condition of the ball is changing because they are getting hit by bats which are so much bigger these days, which makes sense.
Towards the end of the Big Bash season last summer, the Shield players had returned to training and I picked up one of the Dukes balls they were using.
It wasn’t brand new and had a few overs in it, yet I found I could swing it.
It was good fun and it underlines the point that the Dukes ball can help bring bowlers into the game.
If batsmen have complaints about the Dukes ball being used in the Shield, then that’s their problem. They need to get better at playing the swinging ball if we are going to win our first away Ashes series since 2001.
Using Dukes balls will better both batsmen and bowlers. Batsmen will have to make better decisions and play the ball later, which is what you need to do in England.
As a bowling unit, you get a chance to learn how to set players up with a ball that does swing.
The Dukes trial means Shield players will have to use three different balls in one season, with red and pink Kookaburras having been used before Christmas.
In a sense they are guinea pigs, however the players should see it as an opportunity. Show off your skills with either bat or ball and you might find yourself on an Ashes tour.
There are several differences between the Dukes balls used in England and the Kookaburras we use in Australia. The difficulty in assessing them comes about because the conditions in each country are different as well.
The Dukes balls have a really nice feel to them.
The seam really stands up and the stitching is more compact when compared to the seam work on a Kookaburra.
There is more lacquer on a Dukes ball, but it wears off and then after that initial period of 10 overs or so you can get a good natural shine on the ball. It’s strange when you are not used to it, because you think it is losing its shine but then it comes back.
The Dukes ball tends to swing for longer, but it doesn’t tend to reverse swing. In England you generally get only conventional swing. The weather tends to be more overcast there, which also assists the ball to swing.
Strangely, the Dukes ball also tends to swing after it has passed the batsman. Peter Siddle used to get it to wobble late and the wicket-keepers always found that difficult.
There is some mystery about what’s happened to our traditional Kookaburra balls in recent years.
When I first started playing, the Kookaburras used to swing around. They had a beautiful seam and they felt a little bit smaller than they do now, probably a bit closer to a Dukes ball.
They tended to have a darker look to them as well. Bowlers have always spoken about the darker-coloured Kookaburras swinging more. Dukes balls tend to be darker in colour and I don’t know if that’s a coincidence.
The bowling team chooses the ball from a box at the start of a match, with a senior player generally getting the job.
I used to pick them occasionally and have my say but I wasn’t overly fussed. I remember Nathan Bracken used to pick the balls up and do a little wrist flick with them to see how balanced the ball was.
I preferred bowling with the Kookaburra when they were at their best, but quite enjoyed the feeling of a Dukes ball in my hand. They used to feel small compared to a Kookaburra.
The increase in drop-in wickets in Australia is making reverse swing harder to come by here as well. Fielders deliberately throw the ball in on the bounce to help rough it up and enable reverse swing.
The drop-in squares are smaller than traditional pitch blocks, so there’s more lush grass surrounding the pitch and it’s become harder to scuff the ball up.
If batsmen have complaints about the Dukes ball being used in the Shield, then that’s their problem.
Source: PerthNow - https://www.perthnow.com.au/sport/australian-cricket-team/mitchell-johnson-how-the-dukes-ball-can-benefit-australian-cricket-ng-b881100350z
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