Interviewing a cricket ball from the England-New Zealand ODI series
It was my great pleasure to meet with one of the unsung heroes of the recent England-New Zealand one-day international (ODI) series – a cricket ball. The chat took place at the Oval, the ground where a total of 763 runs were scored in 96 overs of cricket as the Kiwis edged a narrow victory on the pesky Duckworth-Lewis system in the second ODI.
Upon my arrival, the groundsman directed me to the box of balls that were used for the match. I opened up the battered case to discover four bruised, and rather frightened looking white balls, and then conducted the interview from the safe vantage point of the pavilion after the ball expressed concern about having to go back out on the pitch.
So how did you find your ODI experience?
Ball: Quite frankly, it was terrifying. We’d heard murmurs from the red balls at the factory where we are made that things had got a bit more brutal, but by then it was far too late to pull out. Besides, I needed the money.
Once I’d been told that they’d chosen me for the Oval game I knew it’d be a tough ride – given the ground’s reputation for being a high-scorer – but jeez, I didn’t expect it would be this bad. I did hear a few went out to Bangladesh for some series and they had it a bit easier out there, but I’m not good with travelling so that wouldn’t have been any use for me.
But surely it’s better now than when they used to only use one ball per innings?
So you’re saying, provided you’re not being whacked for as long it doesn’t matter if you’re getting hit harder? You want to test that out, mate?
Good, I didn’t think so. I do have quite a good friendship with AB de Villiers you see. I’m sure I don’t need to expand on that, consider it a first warning.
Right… moving swiftly on. Do cricket balls have a union that campaigns for your rights?
Well we do, but it doesn’t really benefit us anymore. Back in the day we used to have many players who would be pro-active in supporting our welfare. Rahul Dravid, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, you know the sort. They’d promise not to hit us too hard on the field – or even better just let us sail through to the keeper.
But they’re off the scene now and the Gayles, Warners, McCullums – they couldn’t care less about us.
Is Dravid your favourite player?
Of this century, definitely. They would never let me go to the Caribbean to see Chanders – they reckon I couldn’t handle the rum. But we had even better friends once. There was this chap called Geoffrey Boycott who played for England as an opening batsman. He hated most things by all accounts, but he loved us lot. It would be a miracle if he would hit one of us off the square, and we’d always forgive him when he did.
The red guys got to see more of him than we did. England would rarely pick him in ODIs. Shame.
Any bowlers you particularly admire?
There used to be plenty. Shane Warne, Muttiah Muralitharan, Anil Kumble to name three. All of the great spinners were always pretty kind. They wouldn’t throw us very hard and they could put this spin on us that would trick the batsmen so we didn’t get clobbered.
Sunil Narine was bowling me for a few overs last year, he can still bamboozle them. I must see if he can get me on the list at one of his upcoming matches, I’m sure I could buy him dinner…
Why did you want to become an ODI ball?
It’s a family tradition, you see. In fact, one of my ancestors was the ball they played with when Sunil Gavaskar made 36 not out from 174 balls in the first ever World Cup match! Those were the days. Our job would be just as easy as the red lot who they made play Test matches, and we were getting better pay. Of course, that’s all changed now.
What do you think has caused all the aggression from the batsmen?
I blame all this Twenty20 lark. It was going fine until then. I mean we’d have the freak games where they’d smack us about but apart from that things were pretty calm. Then they introduced this “party” format – oh it’s a party alright – and things have gone from bad to worse.
Then that Lalit Modi chap popped up in 2008 to start the Indian Premier League and now you’ve got this franchise nonsense everywhere.
But you must get paid more for the T20s?
Ha! You are joking? No, we’re all expendable now. Their argument is that because we’re not on the field for as long, that compensates for any extra damages we might receive. The hours aren’t as long I guess and there is plenty of work. Perhaps I’m moaning a bit too much, it could be worse – at least I’m not a tennis ball.
Have you thought about changing career path?
I did for a while, come to think of it. A distant relative was talking to us once about billiards. Apparently, in their sport, you get five-star treatment. You just get knocked around this green table by some person with a stick, and they never hit you very hard!
But cricket is all I know. And anyway, I’m made of leather so I don’t really have the qualifications.
What’s next on your radar?
International duty is done for a while now so it’s off to county cricket for a few weeks while the red balls are shipped in for the Ashes or something. There is some domestic 50-over competition coming up here next month. I’ve heard some games are televised, so keep an eye out for me!
Will do… take care. Oh, and thanks for your time.
Cheers! No worries. Actually, before you go, if you ever come across Chris Martin – that number 11 New Zealand batsman – tell him I said thanks for all the times he played and missed me and my buddies. I heard he’s retired now, and I never got to say my goodbyes.