Lucas Fettes Norfolk League chief Jon Cooke ducks the new ball bouncers
PUBLISHED: 14:37 04 July 2012
"New balls please" is a familiar cry over Wimbledon fortnight, but it's also being heard on some of the cricket fields of Norfolk as well as the pristine playing surfaces of SW19's most famous venue.
For the Lucas Fettes Norfolk League’s decision to change to a different make of ball for all of its matches has sparked a wide-ranging debate covering all shades of opinion with the odd verbal bouncer being aimed in the direction of league officials.
However, Jon Cooke, chairman of the 73-team league, has employed a solid defence, urging critics to give the new SS ball a fair trial over the course of the whole season, rather than condemning it as unfit for purpose too hastily.
He maintains that the decision to switch to a new ball was made in the best interests of the clubs, with cost being an important factor.
“We wanted to provide a ball of sufficient standard at the best value. We need to protect the finances of the clubs in these difficult times.”
A new ball is needed for each innings of every game with a version bearing the world-famous Stuart Surridge logo this season’s five and-a-half ounce cherry of choice.
And Cooke feels that the predominantly wet conditions throughout this soggy sporting summer may have given a false impression of the new ball’s capabilities.
On many occasions the distinctive lacquered surface has remained intact on rain-softened surfaces rather than being removed by abrasion on hardened pitches, making it difficult to shine one side, which aids the swinging process.
“My overriding feeling judging by the comments on Facebook is that there is a minority who don’t like it, there’s probably a minority who do like it and everybody else is in the middle saying ‘it’s a new ball and we should all just get on with it.”
Cooke said the new balls, which have a less pronounced seam than the previous Super Test balls, were trialled in selected games last season and said results of matches with the SS so far this term had not caused any alarm.
“It’s not as if results this season are wildly different from last year. If we had received a whole raft of scores which were ridiculously high or ridiculously low then maybe there would be some grounds for concern.”
Cooke welcomed the “healthy debate” on the Norfolk League’s Facebook page but pointed out that only a relatively small proportion of the 300 members had commented on the issue.
“At the risk of beginning to sound like a politician, which is the last thing I want to do, why not wait and see if we have a dry spell this summer then wait until the end of the season and appraise the ball properly.”
He added: “I really don’t think we have dropped a clanger. I think it needs to be given time.
“You only have to go back 12 months to the number of times that people were complaining about the old ball losing its shape and taking on too much water which has been a common complaint over the years.”