In an effort to standardise conditions for the world Test championship, the MCC’s world cricket committee has suggested that all Tests be played with the same ball. The MCC doesn’t have power to enforce the rule but considering its heavyweight panel, chaired by former England captain Mike Gatting, it’s likely that the international cricket council might yield to the proposal.
The reason behind the proposal is providing a “level-playing field” and a “good balance between bat and ball”. It isn’t clear how this move will achieve that. Let’s assume that the ICC goes with the Kookaburra ball — one among the three balls currently in use. The Kookaburra ball, used in Australia and South Africa among other countries, isn’t a good fit in Indian conditions. If you believe Wasim Akram, it isn’t a good fit for subcontinental conditions as it nullifies reverse swing, and since its seam gets flattened it isn’t good for spin bowling on these pitches either. A Dukes ball, which abets swing movement in England, might not be so good for Australian conditions. Likewise, the SG ball might not be great for Australian conditions.
The real test and joy of Test cricket lies in the fact that teams compete across conditions (which include pitch, ball, crowds, weather) to prove their real worth. Why would anyone want to standardise that? Would the MCC go on to prescribe similar pitches also? If anything, to level the playing field, the MCC and ICC should think of a more radical move: Make the captains choose their own preferred ball in any condition. In a world loaded against the bowlers, let the fielding team decide their weapon of choice at toss and let the batsmen earn their runs and reputation. If a bowling team that has skilful reverse swingers feels that a Dukes ball might be more in tune with their plans and wants to take the risk on that ball in a country where it’s generally not used, let them take that punt. It will lead to more interesting decisions.