In the case of cricket, the advent of the T20 format has completely changed the way run scoring is approached, with the modern day player very eager to ‘get on with it,’ as opposed to his more staid predecessor who was quite content ‘to build an innings’ in the longer formats of the game. As the popularity of the T20 spread, fans noticed a significant increase in the thickness of the bats and a proliferation of sixes being swiped, even off of miscues.  The development of Virtual Eye technology further enhanced the fan’s experience as the flight path of the ball could be tracked as it soared over the boundary ropes, whilst the Six-counter on the television screen clicked again.

MCC logo

In 2017, the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the custodians of the laws of the game, intervened, and after consultations with players, manufacturers and global governing bodies, issued rule changes limiting the maximum dimensions of a bat to 108mm in width, 67mm in depth, with 40mm edges. Despite this ruling which was made to restore a more equitable balance between the bat and the ball, large scores built on six hitting are still the norm in T20 games.

While there have been noticeable increases in the fitness levels and standards of technique in the modern day cricketer, and better weight distribution in bats, hitting of sixes still seems to be a relatively easy exercise. So, is the modern day cricket ball ‘juiced’?

In baseball, the theory has been bandied about for quite some time now as home run records which stood for years were being eclipsed at an alarming rate. Moreso, players not known for hitting home runs earlier in their careers started to swat them on a regular basis. Initially, this increase in home run hitting was linked to the Steroid Era (1993 – 2002), but as Major League Baseball’s drug testing programme was enforced, attention shifted to the ball. Once again, the spotlight has returned to the ball.

On Monday July 08, Justin Verlander, eight-time All Star, and this year’s starting pitcher for the National League, was very blunt with his thoughts on the ball. “It’s a [expletive] joke…Major league Baseball’s turning this game into a joke. They own Rawlings, and you’ve got [Commissioner Rob] Manfred up here saying it might be the way they centre the pill.”

“They own the [expletive] company,” Verlander, the Houston Astros ace who has surrendered a MLB-high 26 home runs to date, continued in his tirade. “If any other $40 billion company bought out a $400 million company and the product changed dramatically, it’s not a guess as to what happened…Manfred the first time he came in, what’d he say? He said we want more offence. All of a sudden he comes, the balls are juiced? It’s not coincidence. We’re not idiots.”

Baseball fans have been close paying attention since Opening Day, when several seasoned starting pitchers were lit up for home runs, prompting Robert Arthur, a week later, on 5th April, to pen, “Moonshot: The Baseball is Juiced (Again),” on the website of Baseball Prospectus. In the article, Arthur provided preliminary mathematical data whilst pointing out that the ball had returned to its aerodynamic peak and was performing as in 2017 when several home run records were set. (The more aerodynamic the ball, the more likely it will fly out of the park).

Whilst many baseball fans are convinced something is up with the baseball, cricket fans can adopt the adage dispensed by coaches to younger batsman coming to grips with facing lethally fast bowling, “Keep your eyes on the ball. Look at the ball all the time.”

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