The crackdown on slaughterhouses in Uttar Pradesh may have an unexpected casualty: cricket balls, which are manufactured using cow hide. With supply of cow leather drying up, cricket balls are expected to become more expensive.
Now, the reduced supply of cow leather is likely to result in the increased import of cow hide, resulting in costlier cricket balls. According to the Mumbai Mirror, local manufacturers in Meerut and Jallandhar said they were getting cow hide from states such as Kerala, West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura, where cow slaughter is still not banned, while bigger ones import it from Switzerland, England and Australia. "We will have to import more. This would mean that the cost of manufacturing will go up by at-least 25 to 30 per cent. Small manufacturers will be worst hit as they don't have the finances to import," a local manufacturer told the newspaper. "This would mean that they will have to depend on bigger players for raw material."
The cricket ball consists of a cork, which is then put in a leather case, stitched together with a string, polished and branded. The best quality balls are used for Tests and first-class matches. A single cow's hide can be used to make up to three-and-a-half dozen cricket balls.
According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, the quality of a cricket ball is determined by the rate at which it wears out while being used during the game, as this in turn plays a role in how it can bounce and swing in the air.
Nearly 80% of the cricket balls in India are made from cow hide. Approximately 50% of these are manufactured in Meerut, a sports goods industry hub that produces over 1 lakh balls every year. Last July, The Times of India reported that increasing cow vigilantism had made it difficult to transport cow hide, disrupting supply chains of cow leather to manufacturers. This resulted in a hike in the prices of cricket balls from Rs 800 in 2015 to Rs 1200 in 2016. In the past, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has also campaigned against the use of leather in cricket and its replacement with synthetic balls.
While manufacturers have tested camel, buffalo, ox and synthetic hides for making cricket balls, these fail to match the quality of cow hide. Buffalo hide is considered to be too thick, and both buffalo and ox skin are harder than cow hide, making them more likely to cause injuries to batsmen. "Buffalo skin is not suitable for 'alum tanning' (the process of preparing it before ball making)," a manufacturer told The Hindustan Times last July. "The hide has issues like colour penetration and waterproofing. It is also time consuming. If one man makes 10 balls with cow leather, it will be six with buffalo hide."