Cricket ball making (hand stitched)
The making of hand-stitched cricket balls with a cork core and leather covering.
|Craft category||Leather; Sporting equipment|
|Historic area of significance|
|Area currently practised|
|Origin in the UK|
|Current no. of professionals (main income)||0|
|Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
|Current no. of trainees||0|
|Current total no. serious amateur makers
|Current total no. of leisure makers
|Minimum no. of craftspeople required|
The game of cricket began in the Kent-Sussex borders, with hedgerow sticks for bats, the wicket gate of sheep pens for stumps, and droppings rolled with wool for balls. The sport grew popular in the south east of England in the seventeenth century (Countryfile).
A cricket ball has a cork core, layered with tightly wound string and covered with a leather case. The construction details, dimensions, quality and performance of cricket balls are specified by British Standard BS 5993. A test cricket ball is covered with four pieces of leather, while a lower quality balls are covered with two pieces of leather.
Today, no one manufactures hand-stitched cricket balls in the UK. In some cases, the raw materials are sent from the UK to the Indian sub-continent for fabrication, and the balls are then finished in the UK. In value terms, 75 per cent of the value comes from the UK in terms of the raw materials and finishing off. The fabrication skills in India are excellent – but the raw materials and management are lacking.
Issues affecting the viability of the craft
Shortage of workers: Dukes Cricket Balls was originally based in Kent and then moved to East London. They brought in workers from South India to make the balls, but when the government changed its immigration regulations to require a degree, this source of workers disappeared.
Market issues: It takes 3.5 hours to make a test match quality cricket ball, but consumers only want to pay £5 for a test match quality ball – killed the UK industry
Ageing workforce: As the old boys died out, there was no one to replace them as no one wanted to do it.
Craftspeople currently known
Dukes Cricket Balls – stopped UK manufacture 4-5 years ago; now supply raw materials to India where the balls are fabricated, and then finished off in the UK
Readers – stopped UK manufacture within the last ten years
- Jenkins, Tom, and Bloor, Steven, ‘From tannery to Test: the process involved in producing a cricket ball’, The Guardian, 25 November 2015
- British Pathé, How Cricket Balls are Made