Kookaburra ball to be a major factor in Ind-Aus series: Harbhajan, Kartik

Kookaburra brand ball, which will be used during India’s all-format series against hosts Australia, starting Friday, will play a major factor, said former India spinners Harbhajan Singh and Kartik Murali on Thursday.

India will play 10 matches, including three One-day Internationals that start on Friday in Sydney, three T20s and four Tests, against Australia.

“Kookaburra ball is a big factor. When I first picked it, I felt as if I was holding a stone. It was very hard and had a less pronounced seam. I was just clueless how to bowl with it. Then with experience, I started holding the Kookaburras slightly tighter than I would hold an SG [Sanspareils Greenlands] ball. This would give me better control while bowling,” said off-spinner Harbhajan.

Speaking at a virtual launch of ‘The Hitman: The Rohit Sharma Story’, written by veteran cricket journalists Vijay Lokapally and G. Krishnan, Harbhajan said on his first tour of Australia he encountered difficult with the Kookaburra, but over time, he learned to deal with it.

“As a spinner you need to be very, very patient in Australia. You will not get side spin as you get in India even on the fifth day, unless it is Adelaide. You will have to bowl a little slower in the air to get the ball to bounce a little extra than in India. Without compromising on the pace you need to give more air to get the revolutions. That’s what Nathan Lyon does better than the other spinners in Australian conditions. He bowls better length than the other spinners,” said the man who bagged 417 wickets in 103 Tests and 269 in 236 ODIs.

Kartik said while the Indians are not used to bowling with Kookaburra balls, which have a different grip than SG or English Dukes balls.

“While SG and Dukes balls have similar seam and a roundish feel, the kookaburras give a squarish feel. With SG balls, we are used to bowl side-spin. In Australian conditions with the Kookaburra, the release of the ball has to be different. One also has to be slow in the air. However, in a real match situation you tend to go for the way you are used to bowling,” said the left-arm spinner who took 24 wickets in eight Tests and 37 wickets in 37 ODIs.

“It is not easy to implement those changes. So, it is important to develop a habit to implement the required changes. Practice sessions are important. But it is more important what you can do during the side games. Ravindra Jadeja [left-arm spinner] and [off-spinner] R. Ashwin have the experience of bowling in Australian conditions. Hopefully, they are better versed,” said the former Railways player.

Talking about Rohit Sharma, who is currently undergoing rehab at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore, both Harbhajan and Kartik said they believed he possessed a special talent and seemed to have more time than others to play his strokes.

“In South Africa (at the T20 World Cup in 2007) I saw him hitting the (South African) fast bowlers at will. It has been a pleasure to see him bat and he reminded me of Inzamam-ul-Haq (of Pakistan). He has so much time, especially against the fast bowlers, to play the ball and often it seems he is batting on a different surface than us. He puts the team ahead of himself and is as calm as M.S. Dhoni,” said Harbhajan.

“When he came into the limelight we saw the precocious talent that he had. But a part of me felt if he as doing justice to it. I always believed he was a right-handed (England’s David) Gower. He had the elegance and so much time at his hand. To me, Rohit is a very, very special player in his own right,” said Kartik.

‘The Hitman: The Rohit Sharma Story’ is published by Bloomsbury India.