The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), widely considered the custodian of the laws of the game, put forth a recommendation that seems more like a googly.

Amongst several suggestions being made to improve the game and the viewership, the world cricket committee of the MCC suggested standardizing the ball used around the world in the course of Test cricket. Currently there are three different balls in use: Duke, Kookaburra and the SG which is used in India. If the ICC adopts the MCC proposal, the red ball will become the first thing to become the uniform code after the universal white flannels.

While the idea being standardizing the ball may be to minimize discrepancies across the playing field as it were, the concept behind using different red balls is to better utilize the varying conditions found in different parts of the world. Therefore, whether a particular seam and stitch may be more conductive to a pitch in one part of the world, it is not necessarily the case in another part of the world.

Every once in a while, the quality of a particular pitch comes into question given how the pitch behaves and the match evolves. There is now the danger that standardizing the use of the ball will be the first of several such moves towards making the game more uniform and therefore, lacking in character. Apart from the fact that whether such a move is even feasible, what it essentially does is take away the character of Test cricket and the home and away concept where playing in home conditions carries its own advantage as does the challenge of playing away from home. Fast, bouncy, seaming pitches in one part of the world and dustbowls in the other that favour reverse swing and leg spin, these are the factors that decide which ball is favoured in which part of the world. It is highly unlikely that a single ball will be able to cater to the unique qualities of the game across the regions where Test cricket is played.

Whether the use of a single ball will be able to extract maximum advantage across the playing field of the Test playing countries where there are so many variables in the game including the weather, the pitch conditions and the size of the outfield makes this recommendation somewhat untenable, leave aside the fact that Test cricket will be in danger of becoming one dimensional, stereotypical and totally lacking in colour or essence.

Whether making the playing conditions more level for all teams across all places means standardizing the ball across the matches is the only right, best option is something that must be considered and weighed before the recommendation can even be tabled before the International Cricket Council for adoption is imperative. At the moment, the idea of a single red ball in use is essentially an utopian idea that does not have its base in practicality.

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