It’s not a secret that electric tape is a hot-selling item at any grocery or a general store open at a corner of a street in Pakistan. Similar may be the case in India as well. But it would certainly need an explanation for readers not living in these lands.
Here, electric tape is used to wrap a tennis ball - the combo has come to be known as tape ball. The tape ball is used in playing cricket and the game is said to have started in Karachi. It has been a very common sight in our streets for decades and has helped produce many world class cricketers.
The combination of electric tape and tennis ball has made it possible for cricket fans, young and old, to play cricket in streets where we can’t play with the regular, hard cricket ball.
Tennis balls are used more for playing cricket here than for playing tennis. The sale of electric tape would certainly be much lower if not for tape-ball cricket.
Frankly, there are few tennis courts in the country and those which are there are generally out of the reach of public. But there are also few cricket grounds if we talk about Karachi. There are fewer grounds than there were in 1990s or 1980s. Many have been occupied by government departments.
Tape ball cricket has helped the game survive while most other sports have gone down.
Moreover, there’s also a consensus among cricket pundits that tape ball cricket has been the reason that Pakistan has been producing talented bowlers. It is said that one can acquire good bowling skills through tape ball cricket but that’s not the case with batting. One cannot acquire good batting techniques through tape ball cricket. And it has also damaged fielding skills because fielders cannot dive on streets.
Pakistan’s legendary batsman Javed Miandad has said Pakistan could not produce good fielders when players generally start playing cricket on concrete surface and develop aversion to diving. A player is normally left with a bloody elbow after a dive on a concrete surface and eventually receives a shot in the arm to prevent infection from tetanus bacteria.
The tape ball cricket, which actually started with the use of used tennis balls, initiated a separate industry. The tennis balls used in playing cricket cannot be used for the purpose of playing tennis.
“In tennis, only imported tennis balls are used here in Pakistan. Dunlop brand balls are generally imported for playing tennis,” former secretary Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) Khalid Rehmani told ‘The News on Sunday’. “And the balls which are used in tape ball cricket, although they look exactly like tennis balls, cannot be used in playing tennis. If it is used, it breaks string in tennis racquets within a minute of play,” he added.
Rehmani, who is a well known tennis event organiser in Karachi, has been associated with Sindh Tennis Association (STA) for a couple of decades in key positions.
“Tennis is not played much here. Therefore, no one would want to start a factory for producing high quality balls of international standard as the demand is little. So, we don’t have any local manufacturer. But there are plenty of companies producing tennis balls for cricket. There is no denying that tennis balls are much more used for playing cricket than tennis,” he said.
He added that many of his acquaintances ask him for used tennis balls for playing cricket.
There are tape ball cricketers who are finicky when it comes to selection of the brand of balls and even the electric tape. “Nitto tape is better than Osaka since it gives predictable bounce,” said Waqas Ali, who bats at top order for his tape ball team.
But bowlers prefer the latter for the same reason. Osaka website says that its electric tape is used for electric as well for playing cricket.
Tape ball cricket has its own charm. Knowingly or unknowingly, this innovation in the game has served the sport well for a long time.