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Friday, July 1, 2016

Slazenger Tennis balls at Wimbledon ~ and the bat Kapil used in June 1983

For long, it used to be the costliest buy and one which would be crowd-funded – all team members would put in few paise, go jointly to the shop, experience the toughness and bounce and then buy one happily – many a matches would stop abruptly either because the ball was lost or was torn / lost the air inside – it is the tennis ball Cricket played at streets of Triplicane or in the inner roads of Marina beach – the ball was indeed a valued possession !

Now, it is premium brand .. engineered to deliver the consistent performance characteristics demanded by the world's most prestigious tournament. The premium woven cloth is specially designed for championship play, using the finest wool to achieve a tighter weave giving increased durability and responsiveness.  It uses an exclusive Ultra Vis dye and patented application process, creating a ball that has optimum visibility for players and spectators. Using  patented Hydroguard technology,  the brand owners have developed a cloth that repels up to 70% more water than a standard ball.

Statistically, 54,250 are used during the Championships period.  They are stored at 68 deg F.  New balls are given after first seven games (to allow for warm-up), then after every 9 games.  The yellow coloured ones are in use from 1986.  At start of the day, 48 tins are taken onto Centre and No.1 Courts.   Now the brand used is Slazenger. Slazenger,  is a British sporting goods manufacturer which concentrates on racket sports including tennis, golf, cricket and hockey. Founded in 1881,  it is today one of the oldest surviving sporting brand names. It also holds the distinction of having the longest sporting sponsorship in world history thanks to its association with the Wimbledon Tennis Championship, providing Tennis balls for the tournament since 1902.   In 1940, its factory reportedly was bombed. 

Last year (2015) there were reports that the tennis balls used at Wimbledon were made with New Zealand wool which travels 40,000km around the world before being served up and hit at Wimbledon grass courts.  Another report stated that the official ball flies 80,000kms between 11 countries and across four continents before being manufactured in Bataan in the Philippines and then travelling back to Wimbledon. After their marathon journey, they are smashed around the courts for just nine games before being ditched as too old, soft and fluffy for the top players.

Warwick Business School in England studied the supply chain, and found clay was shipped from South Carolina in the US, silica from Greece, magnesium carbonate from Japan, zinc oxide from Thailand, sulphur from South Korea and rubber from Malaysia to Bataan, where the rubber is vulcanised - a chemical process that makes the rubber more durable. New Zealand Wool Services (WSI), which is the country's largest wool exporter, provides the wool used in top-line tennis balls. Wool then travels from New Zealand to Stroud in Gloucestershire, where it is turned into felt and then sent back to Bataan. Petroleum naphthalene from Zibo in China and glue from the Philippines are brought to Bataan where Slazenger, which was bought by Sports Direct in 2004, manufacture the balls. Finally, tins are shipped in from Indonesia and once the balls have been packaged they are sent to Wimbledon.

The researcher is quoted as sayint - “It is one of the longest journeys I have seen for a product. On the face of it, travelling more than 50,000 miles to make a tennis ball does seem fairly ludicrous, but it just shows the global nature of production these days, and in the end, this will be the most cost-effective way of making tennis balls.  The ball provides perfect synchronisation of materials produced at a very low cost near to the manufacturing labour in the Philippines. 

In 1983 World Cup, which in our young days, we so crazily followed in Sportsstar magazine and all media; and on TV [only Semi finals and Finals were broadcast] – rest were aired.  When there were more than a match, every 15 minutes or so, commentary would be from a different ground of that match, and we anxiously waited to hear the fortunes of India.  Slazenger and Symonds were the bats most endorsed those days.  Viv Richards used V12 and later Duncan Fearnley.  On June 18, 1983, at Royal Turnbridge Wells, against Zimbabwe,  Indians were pinned to the mat, reeling at 17/5 when Kapil Dev played one of the finest innings, scoring  a magnificent 175 not out.  He reportedly played with a Slazenger V12 bat. That bat was handed to Krishnamachari Srikkanth who inturn gave it to his Ranji-mate – CS Suresh Kumar. Suresh lived in TP Koil Street, Triplicane and we made a beeline to his house, seeing the bat and touching it with awe inspiration and regard.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
29th June 2016.

News & photo :;; Kapil photo : may  not be of that match - but shows Slazenger V 12!

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