April 09, 2017

India: Should cow vigilantism have cricket lovers worried? The answer is yes, very worried indeed

The Times of India

Cow slaughter ban: The Cricket ball may be on the endangered list next
Amit Gupta | Mumbai Mirror | Apr 7, 2017, 07.54 AM IST

Should cow vigilantism have cricket lovers worried? The answer is yes, very worried indeed. For, one of the two most important pieces of equipment required to play the game, the cricket ball, is made of cow hide.

How long before a bunch of 10-15 men stop an IPL game? The bowler may get into trouble for being in possession of cow hide. And how dare he apply his saliva to it to gain some shine?

Should we be worried that some group may tomorrow call for a boycott of cricket? What better time to make a game of it than when one of cricket's most popular and highest grossing show is on. Millions watch IPL, billions ride on it, and it is prime time sports-entertainment.

On the streets of Meerut and Jhalandhar, a few men are watching the Save Cow campaign closely. These men are owners of sports manufacturing units. They make lakhs of cricket balls every year. One of them told Mumbai Mirror: "Work will go on. There still are states in India where cow slaughter is not banned. Some manufacturers are getting cow hide from these states. As far as big manufacturers are concerned, they are importing it from Switzerland, England and Australia. The cost is high, but what choice do we have? As such in India, only old cows are slaughtered and the quality of hide is not good."

But what if vigilantes landed at his unit and demanded that he shut it down? "A lot of people's livelihood will be hit," he says resignedly. Another manufacturer said that shutting down ball manufacturing units will hit farmers in the same manner as the closure of abattoirs has in Uttar Pradesh. "I also don't eat cow meat, but what do you do with an ill or an old cow. That cow is source of money for a farmer," he said.

A single cow's hide can make three-and-a-half dozen cricket balls. An estimated 12,000 balls are used every year in Mumbai during the Mumbai Cricket Association sanctioned tournaments like Giles Shield, Harris Shield and Kanga League. Now do the math to get to the number of cricket balls used in India every year and how many cow hides are required to cater to this market.

Is there an alternative to cow hide as far as manufacturing cricket balls is concerned? No. Some manufacturers mix Ox hide with the cow hide, while attempts have been made to use buffalo hide too. But cow hide remains the preferred choice. Buffalo hide is thought to be too hard to mould and tough to work with.

One impact of cow-vigilantism likely to be felt in the industry is the increased import of cow hide. "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. This would mean that they will have to depend on bigger players for raw material," said a manufacturer.