It is no secret that after the outbreak of COVID-19 across the globe, the way our beloved sports were played before is sure to change. And as a matter of fact, even cricket isn’t going to be immune to this. In order to adapt to the current scenario and in an attempt to stick to community guidelines, reworking some of the rules of the game become important. One such change which has got the whole cricketing fraternity distressed is the ban on the usage of saliva on the ball.
What exactly does this mean? Cricketers use sweat and saliva to shine one end of the cricket ball for it to swing more, that is, move in the air and deceive the batsman. However, as per the new rules, usage of saliva on the ball has been banned temporarily. Now, where does it leave the hapless bowlers? Often there’s talk of the balance of cricket moving towards the batting side, wherein conditions are made favourable for the batsmen to shine at the expense of the bowlers. This argument has emerged as a major talking point after the widespread popularity of the T20 format.
With the pitches being flat, boundaries becoming shorter and batsmen walking out with humongous bats (which makes almost every part a sweet spot), the ban on saliva is perceived by many to be a step closer to bring an end to swing bowling. A few experts just can’t fathom this decision and as per their argument, as these active players will have to go through various levels of testing before playing and also will be staying in bio-secure zones, such a drastic step is unnecessary. The ground would be the safest possible place to be and when all the players on the ground are tested COVID negative, the ban seems hard to digest.
At the moment when no one is aware of what is the correct way to approach this situation as the world is facing unprecedented times, following a more conservative approach is something the lawmakers seem to be more comfortable with. However, some also claim that this ban will have absolutely no impact on white-ball cricket as one doesn’t have to constantly work on the white-ball as much as they need to on the red one. Therefore, in such a case, pitches can be prepared in a manner that will suit the bowlers and thus, level the playing field.
Anil Kumble, the Chairman of the ICC’s Cricket Committee who has recommended these changes, is expecting spinners to rule the roost because of this move. He believes that the saliva ban will provide pitch curators with the incentive to prepare pitches which will tend to crumble in the third or fourth day of a test match. This will, in turn, bring the spinners into the contest with teams looking to field two spinners in their playing eleven rather than pacers. Playing two spinners in countries like Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand is virtually unheard of, so this might just be a breath of fresh air which is required in such testing times.
The ICC’s Cricket Committee also resisted calls from several entities to make the usage of outside substances legal. Hence, the players need to restrict themselves to just sweat for ball management as of now. However, in the very first day back at practice, the Sri Lankan players have reported to their coach Mickey Arthur that sweat wasn’t much effective as it made the ball much heavier than what saliva did. Australia’s spearhead Mitchell Starc is also not convinced with this move and is of the opinion that this will lead to ‘boring cricket’. Recently, in an interview conducted by the fast bowling pair of Shaun Pollock and Ian Bishop, India’s star pacer Jasprit Bumrah commented that there needs to be an alternative to shine the ball other than just sweat.
So, the question that remains is how would the balance between the bat and the ball be restored which makes this sport such a great spectacle to watch? But, we guess, the answer to this can only be clear to us when cricket does return fully on the global circuit.
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