A touchy subject: Is it more sweat and toil for bowlers following cricket’s saliva ban?

Dubai: Throughout the history of cricket, the bat has always had the advantage over the ball. After various changes the game has gone through over the years, the advantage is only getting bigger. Banning saliva from shining the ball, one of the changes recently incorporated by the International Cricket Council (ICC), appears to have blunted bowlers’ primary weapon by limiting their ability to tip the ball and invert the swing, tilting the balance slightly in favor of the hitters. Did it actually give them the advantage? Gulf News takes a look at the big picture on the sensitive topic of using saliva to shine the ball and how not using it will impact point guards’ bowling performance.

The laws of the game are heavily loaded in favor of the batters as their margin for error is slim, one mistake and the batter’s innings can end. Keeping the ball bright, especially on one side of the box, will help bowlers swing the ball when it’s relatively new and will also allow it to reverse swing when it’s old, prompting batsmen to foul strokes. Even spinners benefit from the shine because they can create a drift before giving the spin to spin a web around the pasta. Saliva and sweat were the legally permitted polishing agents to make the ball shine, but the former no longer falls into that category.

Why did the saliva ban come into effect?

To stop the transmission of the coronavirus, the ICC has temporarily banned the use of saliva. However, the sport’s governing body made it a permanent ban on Tuesday.

“This ban has been in place for over two years in international cricket as a temporary Covid-related measure and it is considered appropriate that the ban be made permanent,” said a statement from the ICC, which also listed d other changes in the game conditions which come into effect on October 1st.

“The saliva ban will probably help spinners,” predicted legendary spinner Shane Warne. “, he said before his tragic death.

Why is it important to always shine the ball?

Under useful conditions, bullet shine is not as critical as under useless conditions. If the wicket is covered in grass, and in places like England and New Zealand, the cool, windy conditions allow bowlers to create the ball to bend through the air and off the pitch. But on the grounds of the subcontinent, where the wickets are mostly bald, providing no real help to the bowlers, they have to rely on all their skills in their repertoire.

“If the ball is not well maintained, it is difficult for the bowlers. The pitches are getting shorter and shorter, the counters are flatter and flatter. So we need something,” Jasprit Bumrah said when the ban came into force.

Indian pacemaker Jasprit Bumrah, who is preparing to play nets in Mohali, believes that saliva is an important element in holding the cricket ball.
Image credit: AFP

How does this help bowlers?

Bowlers can spin the ball in or out and the same goes for spinners, who can either go in or out. By keeping the ball bright to one side, point guards can turn the game around with their swing or more with the reverse swing, when hitters are caught in two minds and the sudden, harsh change of direction often catches them off guard. .

Pakistani bowlers were the pioneers in perfecting the art of the reverse swing. Started by Sarfraz Nawaz, greats like Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis have done it time and time again to tip the game in favor of their team. There are plenty who could knock the ball over in world cricket today, but England veteran James Anderson is the current king of the knockdown. During a stint in India, the pacer knocked out technically sound hitters Shubman Gill and Ajinkya Rahane, who left the field in complete disbelief after seeing their stumps shattered. “If you can swing the ball, then you can reverse it,” were Anderson’s words. But for both, the shine and position of the ball seam is extremely important.

Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram-1663773062800

Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram Reuters

Robin Sing

Former Indian all-rounder Robin Singh, Director of Cricket at Emirates Cricket Board, believes there is virtually no difference between sweat and saliva, in fact he prefers the former.

“Sweat is more hygienic, so it’s better. ICC playing conditions as far as pitches are concerned are pretty good, so unless the wickets are too abrasive the ball won’t lose its shine so easily. In Twenty20 overs, the impact will not be felt due to the short duration. In the ODIs two new balls are used, so it won’t have a big impact while in the tests there is too much time available. In short, it shouldn’t be a problem,” he said.

Still, it’s a lot of sweat and toil for fast bowlers.

Other rule changes:

Batters returning when caught: When a batter is caught, the new batter will enter at the striker’s end, regardless of whether the batters crossed before the catch was taken.

Incoming batter ready to face the ball: An inbound hitter will now need to be ready to hit within two minutes in Tests and ODIs, while the current ninety-second threshold in T20Is remains unchanged.

Attacker’s right to play the ball: This is limited to require part of their bat or person to remain on the field. If they venture beyond that, the umpire will call and signal a dead ball. Any ball that causes the batter to leave the field will also be called a No Ball.

Unfair move on defender’s side: Any unfair and deliberate movement while the bowler is running towards the bowl could now result in the umpire awarding five penalty points to the batting side, in addition to a Dead Ball appeal.

Missing the non-attacker or Mankad: The Playing Conditions follow the Laws by moving this method of performing a Run Out from the “Foul Play” section to the “Run Out” section.

Bowler throwing towards attacker’s end before delivery: Previously, a bowler who saw the batter advancing towards the wicket before entering their delivery stride could throw the ball in an attempt to get the striker out. This practice will henceforth be called a dead ball.

Commissioning penalty: The in-game penalty introduced in T20Is in January 2022 (whereby a fielding team’s failure to knock down their overs at the scheduled stoppage time leads to another fielder having to be brought to the inside the fielding circle for the remaining overs of the innings), will now also be adopted in ODI matches after the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Super League ends in 2023.

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