Covid-19 can change the history of shining the ball

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Everything has changed in the history of cricket, from the shape of the bat to the number of days–from 5-day Tests to ODIs to T20s–and colours–ODI cricket changed from all-white to multi-hued kits in the 1980s. The only thing that remained constant was the ball. Though it has withstood time without changes, the shape and use of the ball is liable to change– all due to Covid-19. The pandemic has left the world shaken and the resultant lockdown has affected not only world business, economy, day-to-day work but also sport.

In cricket, the ongoing discussion is about taking safety measures even after the end of this pandemic. One of these is by avoiding the use of saliva on the ball to make it shine. Now, how will bowlers shine the ball without using their saliva during a match? In the interest of cricket and bowlers, the ITV Foundation took the initiative and asked an expert panel of cricketers: if bowlers can’t use saliva, what are the other alternatives to maintain hygiene? Panel member and former Indian cricketer Reetinder Singh Sodhi said, “It will be very difficult for bowlers to adapt to this but since it’s a matter of people’s lives, not using saliva shall become a habit.” Senior sports journalist Ayaz Memon agreed with Sodhi and was concerned about continuous sweating during the game. Indian captain Virat Kohli’s coach Rajkumar Sharma suggested use of masks during a match to overcome the habit of using saliva on the ball. Former Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar has said, “I think players will be wary for some time when it comes to using saliva (to shine the ball).”

Apart from the views of our panel members, former Pakistani spearhead Shoaib Akhtar had suggested a few years ago that use of saliva should be avoided in the interests of players’ hygiene. But not everyone is on the ball entirely. Australian fast bowler Pat Cummins said, “Being a fast bowler, it will be very difficult to not use saliva on the cricket ball. If we come into such conditions again, where there is a spread of the virus, then we have to stop using saliva but it will not even feel like we are playing anymore.” While Cummins may have sounded a trifle uncertain, Josh Hazlewood, another Aussie pacer, felt it could suit white-ball cricket. “I think the white ball would be fine but Test cricket would be very hard,” he said. The Federation University Australia and the Australia National University have said using saliva on cricket ball will spread the virus. The onus now lies with the International Cricket Council to decide what would be the best alternative for the ball to shine.

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