Home » Tape ball is taking off, and it could help swing the future of Australian cricket

Tape ball is taking off, and it could help swing the future of Australian cricket

On suburban ovals throughout the country, a silent revolution is hiding in plain sight and its basic ingredients are the humble tennis ball and rolls of electrical tape.

Tape ball — a variation of cricket pioneered in the backstreets of Pakistan — is gaining ground across Australia’s playing fields, attracting hundreds of participants and thousands of supporters.

Professional tape ball cricketer, Rizwan Latif, said the sport was becoming “very popular” in Australia, partly thanks to migrants from South Asian backgrounds.

Rizwan Latif says the sport uses a lighter, more curved bat than traditional cricket bats.(ABC News: Nethma Dandeniya)

“People are loving it,” he said.

The sport is also spawning the creation of tape ball tournaments in Australia’s major cities and driving hopes of a new generation of cricketers.

So what exactly is it?

While the game is similar to conventional cricket, the key difference is — as its name suggests — the ball.

Tape ball is played not with the typical hard and heavy leather-and-cork spherical projectile, but a tennis ball wrapped in electrical or insulating tape that streamlines the ball and helps it to swing, sometimes wickedly.

The tautness of the tape determines the amount of swing through the air and bounce off the pitch.

Close up of a cricket like ball wrapped in white tape.

Tape ball is played with a tennis ball that is wrapped in electrical or insulating tape.(Supplied: Rizwan Latif)

“If you’re taping too tight, the ball is going to bounce less, which is good for the fielding side,” Mr Latif said.

“But if you tape it too loose, the ball is going to bounce more … which is good for [the] batting side.”

The sport has acted as a breeding ground for elite talent, and can claim the game’s so-called Sultan of Swing among its greatest graduates.

Before embarking on a professional career in which he took 414 Test wickets for Pakistan and helped his nation claim the 1992 Cricket World Cup, Wasim Akram played tape ball as a child.

The sport’s emergence was partly a matter of necessity in his home country, where a lack of access to resources forced local children to improvise.

People play tapeball on a synthetic cricket pitch.

Innings are usually limited to six to eight overs per side, and matches take place on smaller grounds.(ABC News: Nethma Dandeniya)

“Youngsters wanted to play cricket but … it wasn’t viable, it wasn’t affordable to play proper hardball cricket,” Mr Latif said.

“To buy the hardball and then all the gear, financially it wasn’t possible.

“They wanted a ball which is pretty much as fast as a cricket ball but easily replaceable when it’s lost.”

While there are 11 players on each team, innings are usually limited to six to eight overs per side, and matches take place on smaller grounds.

Tape ball bats are curved and some have holes along the edge to lighten them, allowing for bigger hitting — making T20 look sedate by comparison.

Popularity explodes

Professional tape ball player Asad Warriach said the sport attracts up to 100,000 spectators in Pakistan and players were sometimes paid more than the leather ball players.

“Tape ball cricket gets more viewers [than leather ball cricket],” Mr Warriach said.

“It’s basically for six overs, it doesn’t have to go all day.”

A man stands.

Asad Warriach says tape ball matches are popular on YouTube and social media.(Supplied: Asad Warriach)

Mr Latif said the first tape ball tournament he organised in Adelaide was in 2012 with about eight teams.

Since then, the sport has exploded in popularity across the country.

“You can see this — kids who want to play and all want to enjoy,” Mr Warriach said.

Spectators watch a game of tape ball.

Part of tape ball’s appeal is cultural — the sport has helped players maintain a sense of connection to the land of their heritage.(ABC News: Nethma Dandeniya)

What’s next for the game?

Earlier this year, the England and Wales Cricket Board announced a new tape ball tournament in the hope it could unearth future cricketing talent, and enthusiasts want Australia to follow suit.

“That’s a really great initiative, and I think we should promote this tape ball culture here as well,” Mr Latif said.

“SACA or Cricket Australia — anyone — we are more than happy to help.