The Kookaburra and SG are two of the most popular cricket balls used in international and domestic cricket matches. While both provide high quality performance, there are some key differences between the two balls:
The main differences are:
- Weight – The Kookaburra is slightly heavier at 156-163g vs 151-154g for the SG ball
- Size – The Kookaburra has a circumference of 8.81-9 inches while the SG ball is 8.75-8.88 inches
- Materials – The Kookaburra uses imported English alum tanned leather while the SG uses Indian leather
- Bounce – The Kookaburra tends to have a higher and livelier bounce
- Swing – The SG ball tends to swing more than the Kookaburra
- Seam – The SG has a more prominent seam compared to the Kookaburra
- Durability – The Kookaburra retains its shine and shape longer
- Price – The SG ball is more affordable than the Kookaburra
- Conditions – The SG ball performs better in subcontinent conditions while the Kookaburra is ideal for bouncy pitches
- Manufacturing – The Kookaburra uses a hand-stitched process while SG uses a machine
Here’s a video of Mitchell Johnson bowling with a Kookaburra (to give you some idea of how they react):
Difference in weight
The Kookaburra cricket ball weighs between 156-163 grams while the SG cricket ball is slightly lighter at 151-154 grams.
The 7-12 gram difference gives the Kookaburra a little more momentum through the air when bowled or hit for shots.
As a batter, I’ve noticed that the heavier Kookaburra makes a more satisfying thud off the bat compared to the lighter SG.
The extra weight can help fast bowlers generate more pace and bounce. However, the weight difference is quite small so its impact is marginal overall.
Difference in size
There is a slight variation in size between the two balls. The Kookaburra has a circumference of 8.81-9 inches compared to 8.75-8.88 inches for the SG.
This means the Kookaburra is fractionally larger overall. As a bowler, I find the larger Kookaburra fits a bit better in my hand when gripping the ball to bowl.
However, the size difference is miniscule so most players do not notice a huge difference when playing with either ball.
The standards set by the ICC ensure both balls are within an acceptable range.
Difference in bounce
One of the more noticeable differences between the balls is that the Kookaburra tends to have a higher and livelier bounce compared to the SG.
The snappier bounce off the pitch is a trademark of the Kookaburra and makes it well suited for bouncy wickets in Australia and South Africa.
As a batter facing the new Kookaburra, I’ve found it jumps quickly off a length and you have less reaction time.
The SG has a more subdued bounce which provides a little more time against fast bowling. However, on flat or worn pitches, there may not be a huge difference.
The materials used in construction impacts the performance and durability of the two balls.
The Kookaburra uses high-grade alum tanned leather imported from England while the SG uses leather sourced within India.
The superior English Dukes leather gives the Kookaburra a smoother finish and helps it retain shine for longer. It leads to better seam strength too.
The SG leather is more porous and rougher in texture, causing it to scuff up earlier. However, the SG seam has less lacquer allowing it to grip the pitch better.
History of both balls
The origins of both balls give an insight into their distinct qualities.
The Kookaburra was first developed in Australia in the 1890s to withstand the hard pitches down under. The emphasis was on durability and bounce.
The SG ball originated in India in the 1930s and was designed for lower, slower pitches. The focus was on optimizing swing and seam movement which Indian conditions demand.
So the underlying history explains why the Kookaburra swings less and bounces more compared to the SG.
Speed they travel
When a cricket ball is bowled fast by a pace bowler or struck powerfully by a batter, it can travel at very high speeds.
A well struck cricket ball can travel between 120-130 mph off the bat.
For fast bowlers, the speed off the pitch can vary from 90-100 mph for medium pace up to 100-105 mph for very quick bowlers.
There is no major difference between the Kookaburra and SG in terms of the speeds generated when hit or bowled with full force. The aerodynamics and weight make both capable of reaching high velocities off the bat or when delivered.
How fast is a serve?
In tennis, a powerful serve can travel even faster than a cricket ball. The fastest tennis serves have been clocked at over 150 mph. This is faster than any cricket ball.
Some notable speeds:
- Australian Sam Groth hit a 163.7 mph serve in 2012 – the 2nd fastest on record
- American John Isner registered a 157 mph bomb in 2016
- Croat Ivo Karlović has the official world record serve of 156 mph
The lighter tennis ball coupled with the racket acceleration enables extremely quick serves. By comparison, even the hardest hit cricket shots top out at around 130 mph.
What is the World Record Speed of both?
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Australian fast bowler Brett Lee holds the record for bowling the fastest delivery in cricket.
In an ODI match versus New Zealand in 2005, Lee clocked 161.1 kph or 100.1 mph. This is the fastest officially recorded speed for a cricket ball.
In tennis, the record for fastest serve is 156 mph by Ivo Karlović which he hit at a 2007 Davis Cup match. So the cricket ball record is marginally faster by around 5 mph.
However, independent radar guns have unofficially clocked tennis serves up to 163.7 mph. The lighter tennis ball likely enables higher speeds when served versus the heavier cricket ball when bowled.
How both compare to balls from other sports
The cricket ball has similar leather construction but is heavier than a baseball which is around 142 g. The tennis ball is the lightest at 56-59 g with a fluffy felt and rubber core.
The golf ball with a surlyn plastic cover and rubber core is 46 g. The soccer ball has a polyurethane synthetic leather casing over a latex bladder and weighs between 410-450 g.
The cricket ball is heavier than a baseball, tennis or golf ball but lighter than a soccer ball.
The materials and seam on a cricket ball make it ideal for swinging and bouncing off the pitch. The leather casing gives it durability while the core provides stiffness and rebound when hit.
Compared to other sports, the cricket ball is uniquely suited for its purpose.
The best makes of balls for either sport
For cricket, the top ball manufacturers are:
- Kookaburra – The official ball of Cricket Australia and known for its durability and bounce. Used in international matches played in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
- SG – The official supplier of the Indian national team. Known for its swing and seam-friendly characteristics. Used often in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
- Dukes – The official English cricket ball since World War II and used in test matches in England, Ireland, West Indies and Sri Lanka. Provides great swing and seam movement.
For tennis, the pinnacle ball brands are:
- Wilson – Official suppliers of the US Open and Australian Open plus Federer’s brand. Known for consistent bounce and durability.
- Penn – The brand of choice for Nadal and official supplier for French Open providing great clay court grip.
- Slazenger – Suppliers for Wimbledon known for fluffy felt and grass court traction.
So Kookaburra, SG and Dukes lead cricket while Wilson, Penn and Slazenger dominate tennis ball manufacturing.
Best ways to store or maintain the balls
Proper storage and care is important to maximize ball performance and shelf life. For cricket balls:
- Store in a dark, temperature controlled environment between 60-78°F
- Keep in a humidifier box to prevent drying out
- Apply leather conditioner regularly if not used often
- Avoid direct sunlight or heat exposure for extended time
- Wipe with a dry cloth after use – do not immerse in water
For tennis balls:
- Keep pressurized in the tube or can
- Storing at room temperature away from heat
- Replace ball every 3-4 months for casual play
- High altitude reduces pressure – avoid storing above 4,000 feet
- Wipe off court debris but don’t soak in water
Proper storage and occasional conditioning preserves bounce, texture and performance. Old worn out balls should be replaced.
How a new one compares to an older one
A new cricket ball offers optimum hardness, shine, bounce and swing. The leather is smooth and the prominent seam gives edge for fast bowlers.
An older ball has often lost its original luster. The leather softens and roughens through use. An out-of-shape ball makes gripping tougher for bowlers and compromises aerodynamics when bowling and batting.
For spinners, an older ball provides more grip and bite versus a slick new ball. But for quick bowling, nothing beats the performance of a new ball.
In summary, the Kookaburra and SG are both high quality cricket balls with small differences in weight, size and materials.
The Kookaburra’s higher bounce and durability makes it ideal for hard Australian pitches while the SG’s swing and seam suits Indian conditions.
With proper care and storage, both balls can provide good performance. But nothing beats the feel and zip of a brand new ball whether on the cricket pitch or tennis court!