We all know that professional cricket at the international level is played with a leather ball. But often people wonder, “Why is Cricket NOT played with a tennis ball”? Wouldn’t it be so much more easier with all the equipment and cricket gear? We can pretty much get rid of all that if cricket was played with Tennis Ball!
But just as we wish it was so, this questions has been debated about years ago and there are good reasons why cricket is not played with a softer tennis ball. So, in this post we will look at 13 reasons why cricket is not played with tennis ball.
The reason why cricket is not played with tennis ball is as follows –
- A tennis ball is difficult to hit far
- Swinging a Tennis Ball is nearly impossible
- Tennis Balls have too much bounce
- Tennis ball is slower in the air
- Tennis ball slows down easily while rolling on the ground
- No seam means less spin control
- Limited Shot selection for a Batsman
- Timing a cricket shot doesn’t work that well
- Tennis balls don’t last long
- Impact of the Pitch is limited
- Tennis Ball Loses Color and Shape quickly
- Awkward Bounce while fielding
- Low Entertainment Value
Although the aforementioned points give a good indication of the reasons a leather ball is used instead of a tennis ball. However, for better understanding, we shall look into the detailed explanation of each of these points below –
1. A Tennis Ball is Difficult to Hit Far
As you are already aware, a tennis ball is a soft ball compared to a leather ball. As a result, when the ball hits the bat, there is a good part of the ball that contracts inwards. This gives the tennis ball some obvious disadvantages one of which is the distance it can be hit.
To add to the misery, the tennis ball also has a rough surface. Therefore, even when it is hit hard, it slows down as a result of the friction created in the air due to the rough surface of the ball.
Thus, it is difficult to hit the ball really far. So, all those 120 meters Chris Gayle sixes would be nearly impossible to replicate! (which will be really sad!)
2. Swinging a Tennis Ball is Next to Impossible!
One of the biggest mode of enjoyment in the game of cricket is the battle between the bowler and the batsman. A batsman has always had an advantage over the bowler as he has a bat with which he can hit the ball in any part of the ground (or outside the ground) and demoralize the bowler.
However, swing bowling has exactly the same effect on a batsman (as a batsman feels vulnerable as he is unable to play a ball that swings). A key weapon for a fast bowler in order to get the batsman out is swing bowling.
When a fast bowler, bowling at speeds in excess of 135 kilometers per hour (kmph), and swings the ball in the air (which gives the batsman very little time to react), it can easily get him/her out. Even when the batsman survives, it definitely makes him nervous and susceptible to mind games.
On the contrary, swinging a tennis ball is quite hard (next to impossible). In order to swing a ball, one half of the ball has to be smooth while the other half has to be rough. This creates an imbalance in the friction generated due to the air, thus pushing the ball in one direction or the other (which we call it a swing).
Since, a tennis ball doesn’t even have two equal halves let alone a rough and a smooth half, the possibility of a controlled swing is virtually impossible.
3. Tennis Ball has too much Bounce
Even though the tennis ball is a lot softer than the leather ball, a tennis ball bounces way more than a leather ball. You may wonder why this is so?
Well, the reason is simple – a tennis ball is not only softer but also a lot lighter than a leather ball. A leather ball weighs around 156 grams. On the contrary, a tennis ball weighs merely approximately 58 grams. As a result, when the ball hits the ground, due to the effect of gravity, the heavier leather ball doesn’t bounce as high as a lighter tennis ball.
This phenomenon gives the leather ball the perfect bounce needed for playing the game of cricket.
This is one of the reasons as to why ICC has created specific standard measurements for weight and size of a cricket ball when being used in an international match.
This is, however, not the case for a tennis ball. Since the tennis ball bounces a bit too much, it produces varying results for a bowler and creates inconsistency in the game.
4. Tennis Ball is Slower in the Air
One of the other reasons why tennis ball is not chosen for international cricket is because it is much slower in the air than a leather ball.
A tennis ball has a rough surface. A closer look on the surface of the tennis ball will reveal that the soft green strands are all over the place with no consistency! Thus, when thrown in the air, this inconsistent surface creates a lot of resistance to the air and slows the ball down.
There are two drastic outcomes of this which can have an impact on a cricket game as we know it. As a result of the resistance, the ball doesn’t travel far in the air. This means that even if the ball is thrown or hit really hard, it won’t travel too far (as explained in point 1).
Furthermore, this also means that when a fast bowler balls using a tennis ball, the speed of the ball will be much slower when it reaches the batsman as compared to when it was released from the hand of the bowler.
This means, no more Shoaib Akhtar or Brett Lee! Heck, even the speeds of 135 or 140 kmph would be extremely difficult to achieve. Surely, this is not something even we, as spectators, would like to see!
5. Tennis Ball Slows Down Easily even when Rolling on the Ground!
In the previous point, we learned that a tennis ball showcases a lot of resistance while in the air. The same is true even when it is hit along the ground!
The reason for the resistance to travel too far on the ground is the same. When the rough surface of the tennis ball comes in contact with the grass on the cricket ground, it produces a certain amount of resistance which is significantly higher than that produced by a leather ball. As a result, a shot will have to be hit much harder even when hit along the ground.
If, however, there was no grass on the cricket ground, in that case, the resistance produced by a tennis ball will be much lower. Nevertheless, the tennis ball will still won’t be able to travel as much as the leather ball does even on the grass.
In any case, what would a cricket ground be without any grass on it! No more Jonty Rhodes type diving run outs or amazing diving catches or even slides to prevent an other certain boundary!
I’d rather have grass when fielding than have a tennis ball!
6. No Seam means Less Spin Control
As you may already be aware, a leather ball has a seam that stitches the two leather pieces and divides the ball in two equal halves. The seam on the leather ball plays a very vital role not just in keeping the insides of the ball from coming outside but also for a bowler.
A seam on the leather ball allows the bowler to grip the ball. Furthermore, presences of a seam on the ball also allows the fielding team to shine one half of the ball and keep the other half as rough so that a fast bowler can generate swing while bowling.
But most importantly for a spin bowler, a seam allows the bowler to control the way a ball will turn after the bounce. It also allows the bowlers like Shane Warne or Muthiah Muralitharan to generate significant amount of spin on the ball as the seam allows the spin bowler to generate enough revolutions on the ball due to the grip in the fingers.
A tennis ball, on the contrary, doesn’t have any seam on it. As a result of this, even though the tennis ball can be made to spin in both the directions, the control on the spin is not as much as it is while using the leather ball due to the lack of seam.
7. Limited Shot selection for a Batsman
Thus far, we have learned that a tennis ball travels pretty slow in the air as compared to the leather ball. We have also seen that it travels slower than the leather ball even on the ground!
As a result of this, if a batsman wants the tennis ball to hit for a six or even a four along the ground, the batsman will have to use a lot of power.
However, if you look at the variety of shots that a batsman can play, only the shots played straight behind the bowler, the offside in front of the wicket or the leg side in front of the wicket can be played with a lot of power.
Most of the time when a batsman plays the ball behind the stumps, either through the slips, point, or cover region or even towards the third man region, the batsman uses the timing of the shot, and the speed of the bowler to play these shots.
Such shots will be very difficult to play resulting in a limitation in the number of shots a batsman would like to play when playing with a Tennis ball.
8. Timing a Cricket Shot does not work that well
For a batsman in cricket, one of the most important thing is to learn the skill of timing a cricket shot.
This means a leather ball can be hit really hard and quite far by just hitting the shot using the correct part of the bat at just the correct point in time without actually needed to hit the ball powerfully. This is called “timing a cricket shot”.
However, when using a tennis ball, even when you time the shot well, the ball just doesn’t travel that long. Obviously, timing a cricket shot is still important and effective even when using a tennis ball. But, it just doesn’t seem to have the same effect as that of a leather ball.
Thus, shots like the famous uppercut by Sachin Tendulkar or Virendra Sehwag, which invariably resulted in a six, will only fetch 1 or 2 runs.
9. Tennis ball just doesn’t Last that Long
Another reason why tennis balls are not considered while playing at the international level is that they just don’t seem to last that long!
Given that both – the tennis ball, as well as a leather ball, has a life span. In an international cricket match, most batsmen tend to have strong bats and do hit the ball really hard. As a result of this, a leather ball also gets battered after a number of overs. However, a leather ball can easily last about 80 or more overs. In fact, in Test Cricket, the bowling team has the option of taking a new ball after a minimum of 80 overs.
A tennis ball, on the contrary, wouldn’t last anywhere close to those number of overs. If a tennis ball is used, the batsmen will have to hit the ball that much harder (since it doesn’t travel that far in the air or along the ground). This will result in the ball breaking within a few overs. I reckon a tennis ball wouldn’t last anywhere for more than 6-8 overs
This will cause unnecessary stoppages every 25-30 minutes for changing a new ball. In order for the ball to survive, it has to be really hard which is quite the contrary to a “soft” tennis ball.
10. Impact of the Pitch is Limited
In Cricket, a pitch plays a very important role. Strategic decisions are made based on the nature of the pitch. Captains make decisions whether to bat or bowl simply looking at how the pitch is expected to behave.
A cricket pitch can drastically deteriorate as the match progresses based on what sand has been used for preparing it. This has a drastic impact on a leather ball.
When the pitch becomes a bit used, it creates cracks and rough areas. These cracks and rough areas make a leather ball turn and bounce in the direction intended, but often more than expected. This is largely due to the presence of the seam on a leather ball.
However, the cracks and rough areas on the pitch have a limited impact on the tennis ball. Thus, impact of the pitch is nullified and as a result, this important part of cricket which involves strategic thinking (which can set the two teams apart and also increase the entertainment value) will be lost.
11. Tennis Ball loses Color and Shape very Quickly
This is another interesting reason why using a tennis ball at the international level may not make sense.
It is a fact that both – the tennis ball as well as the leather ball lose their shape as the match progresses. Furthermore, both the type of balls lose their color due to the effect of the green grass.
However, a leather ball takes more than 70-80 overs to lose its color or shape. On the contrary, a tennis ball doesn’t last anywhere close to those many numbers of overs.
12. Awkward Bounce while Fielding
A tennis ball is made of a rubber type of material. Even though it is fairly elastic in nature, one drawback with such material is that even a small stone or other such matter on the ground can cause the ball to bounce in another direction!
This just causes inconsistency in the bounce and it just doesn’t work for international cricket.
Now, obviously even a leather ball does deviate from its path when it comes in contact with small stones. However, since the weight of the ball is much higher than a tennis ball and the surface is hard and not as elastic as a tennis ball, the deviation caused in the patch of a leather ball is very little. This does not, however, result in an awkward bounce.
It is important to note that such small stones or other substances when present on a pitch can result in getting a batsman dismissed even when the deviation is very small. This is the reason you will notice a lot of batsmen walk down the pitch and tap it with their bats. We wrote a complete article explaining why batsman tap on the pitch with their bats. You can read it by clicking on – https://cricketmastery.com/why-cricketeres-tap-their-bat-on-the-pitch/ (the link will open in a new tab when clicked on it, so that you can continue to enjoy reading the rest of the article :D)
13. Low Entertainment Value
Finally, another reason why a tennis ball is not used in international cricket instead of a leather ball is because the game will have a low entertainment value.
If a tennis ball is used, the grounds will have to be much smaller, the number of sixes will be limited, the batsmen will not be able to showcase their skills as the number of shots possible to hit would also be very limited and overall there will be much lower entertainment value than as compared to when playing with a leather ball.
Final Thoughts –
There are a number of reasons why cricket is played the way it is. Playing the game of cricket using a tennis ball is not at all a bad thing! In fact, most cricketers start playing first with a tennis ball in their backyard or a gully. It’s just that the negatives of using a tennis ball outweigh its advantages!