Standardisation of the ball in Test cricket is gaining momentum after the Indian board said it was now open to the idea of having Australia's Kookaburra as a second supplier.
Eight of the 10 Test-playing nations use assembly-line balls manufactured by the Australian company.
India and England are the exceptions, preferring to use their domestic, hand-stitched red balls. The choice of the brand of ball used in Tests is the privilege of the host nation.
Indian sports goods manufacturer Sanspareils Greenlands (SG) has been the sole supplier of the red ball to the Indian board for many years, but is now in danger of losing its monopoly following complaints about performance and replacement rates.
"We did some testing last year in a bid to improve the quality but there were complaints," SG director Puneet Anand told Reuters by telephone on Thursday.
"We have rectified those. I guess it's a natural thing to look for options," he added from the northern city of Meerut.
Indian board secretary Niranjan Shah told Reuters the board was agreeable to using Kookaburra as long as the manufacturer provided the balls at a competitive price.
The Kookaburra costs five times morethan a SG ball.
"Weare not discouraging SG but there needs to be an alternate. Kookaburra is a well-known brand and most countries use their ball," Shah said.
Many believe the hand-made SG ball offers an advantage to the spin-orientedIndian attack because the pronounced seam provides better grip for spinners.
The Australian company, whose white ball is widely used in one-daycricket, is pitching for the red ball to be standardised.
"Statisticsare important to the game and I believe the ICC should take the lead and adopt one ball for world cricket so it becomes constant," Rob Elliot, group managing director of Kookaburra, was quoted as saying in the Financial Times on Thursday.
"The cricket public doesn't want batsmen suddenly hitting balls 80 metres instead of 60 metres or medium-pacebowlers bouncing the ball over their heads."
Anand said the fact that no two hand-madeballs were the same only enriched the game. "How many facets of the game should be standardised?" he asked."Kookaburra has introduced technology into the ball which can control the bounce, hardness and life of the ball. A hand-made ball has a quirk to it, but that's the romance of it."