NotesThe first cricket balls were made of leather with a stuffing of cloth, hair or feathers. Leather balls date from at least 1794 when the game of Stoneyhurst Cricket was brought to England by English Catholic schoolboys after returning from Liese, finishing their 200 year old exile on the Continent. The students of Stoneyhurst College made their own balls comprising a core of list (cloth that was tightly covered with worsted soaked in glue) then rapidly dried in front of a fire. The core was then given to the school shoe-repair shop where trained shoemakers covered it with two half circles of thick hard leather. The edges of these were stitched through with wax end (thread coated with cobbler's wax).
Other early cricket balls were of hand-carved solid wood, some of which would have been covered with leather. Later the solid wood core gave way to a combination of cork and wool. Such mixed cores became known as 'quilts'. The skill of the village shoemaker and saddler would then be enlisted for the cover. The stitching of the cricket ball was said to have no parallel in either the saddllery or leather trades.
Eventually the cricket ball became standardised throughout cricket-playing England. It had to be round for rolling along the ground, be resilient for hitting, and between 5 and 6 oz. in weight.
The first manufactured cricket balls are thought to have been made as a cottage industry in England by generations of the Duke family at The Paddocks, Redleaf Hill, Penshurst, Kent, between 1760 and 1841. The secret of the Duke-made balls was the winding of thread around an octagonal piece of cork which formed the kernel or core of the ball. When the ball was perfectly round with cork and thread the leather cover was added. Duke and Son gained the Royal patent for their cricket balls in 1775. From then on the days of players making their own cricket balls had ended.
Platypus cricket balls are made in Australia by the Platypus Sporting Goods (Dave Brown) Pty Ltd. As in England cricket ball manufacturing runs in the family and for four generations the Brown family have been making cricket balls in Melbourne. This family-owned and run business was established in the 1930s by Dave Brown. At the time there were numerous small cricket ball manufacturers and after Brown lost his job at Nutting and Young Pty Ltd, due to illness during the Depression, he and his young wife commenced the production of cricket balls in the backyard of their home.
After the Second World War, Dave was joined by his son Eric and the business began to expand. They moved to premises in Preston, a northern Melbourne suburb, and during this time began to develop overseas markets for their cricket balls. After Dave's death in 1965 the business was continued by Eric and in 1970 he was joined by his two sons Gary and Rodney. Eric died 1993 and during the 1990s the fourth generation of the family, Rodney's son David and Gary's son Adrian, entered the business.
Platypus Sporting Goods now join the Kookaburra firm as the market leaders in cricket ball manufacturing in Australia and the numerous smaller manufacturers have fallen by the wayside.
Platypus makes a range of cricket balls for competition, grade cricket, practice and training. These include the Platypus Googly Longlife, the Platypus Match/Special Turf, the 2 Piece Club Special, Platypus Plyable, Platypus Comet, Platypus Gem and the Platypus Diamond.
The Platypus Gem cricket ball is a two-piece ball made especially for senior practice and lower level club games. It features a core of moulded cork and rubber compound. ACL Comcork in Melbourne, who began Australia's first cork recycling plant in 1990, supplies the granulated cork for the core to Platypus. Wine corks are collected as a service activity by girls all over Australia in the Guide movement and sent to Melbourne for recycling. Corkwood is extremely slow to grow and despite the recycling much more expensive cork still needs to be imported from Portugal. ACL Comcork not only supply cork granules to the two cricket ball manufacturers Platypus and Kookaburra, but manufacture a large range non-slip cork and rubber flooring for schools, hospitals, and marine and sporting facilities.
The cork and rubber core is wound with 27 micron 100 percent Pure New Wool spun and twisted into 2/10 NM count. The wool is from NSW, scoured and processed at Wagga Wagga and turned into yarn at the Macquarie Textiles Plant at Albury. The wool is wet wound under tension to compress the centre to produce a core with the required bounce and shape retention qualities.
Of the cricket balls made by Platypus, the Gem is covered with the lowest grade leather obtained from Australian steer hides. The leather is tanned and dyed in Melbourne and the two pieces of leather are hand sewn with approximately 55 stitches in a single waxed thread of 6-cord Polyester, which has extremely high breaking strain and wear resistant capabilities. Hand sewing is superior to machine sewing as with the latter a line is cut into the surface of the leather for the automatic stitching machine to follow which weakens the leather and corresponding seam strength.
The finishing process comprises two coats of a highly scuff-resistant nitro-cellulose lacquer and embossing before packaging in moisture-proof paper bags.
Apparently the cricket balls produced in England are usually dipped in a resinous oil mixture to prevent damage to the leather by rainwater. However, this also tends to soften the surface of the ball which will easily scuff on the hard turf or astro pitches found in Australia and Africa. Many English balls are actually sewn in the Sub-Continent as a cost saving measure.
In 1998, Platypus Australia together with George Fletcher and Associates formed Platypus UK Pty Ltd to market a ball made from Australian leather to suit conditions British conditions.
The expensive top grade Platypus cricket balls are made in the more traditional 'quilted' or layered cork method. The cork and rubber compound core is still used with the addition of 3 or 5 layers of cork separated by layers of a wool/polyester blend yarn. This is wet wound under tension to compress the cork layers to produce a core. It is very critical that the core has the correct firmness and bounce, without being too hard so as not to damage expensive bats, as is apparently the case with most balls from the Sub-Continent.
On the expensive cricket balls, the covers are made in four pieces from the superior butt portion of steer hide which is subjected to a traditional alum tanning process to promote a resistant grain enamel while tightening the fibrous structure of the leather. The pieces of leather are cut from the one butt hide and matched in both colour and weight. They are then machined with 12 mm braided polyester thread forming an invisible flat seam then turned right side out and pressed into warm moulds with counter weights to form the ball shape. The leather is allowed to season before being trimmed and machined, using 5/18 pure linen thread, with two false rows of 65-70 stitches. The covers are then matched to a core of the correct size and weight and pressed together into a vice and hand-stitched to close the ball.