Picture: 123RF/RICHARD THOMAS
Picture: 123RF/RICHARD THOMAS

With the International Cricket Council (ICC) giving the use of saliva when shining it the thumbs down‚ cricket ball maintenance will enter a new realm.

The decision was taken at a recent ICC committee meeting. Using artificial substances instead of saliva still has to be discussed. Whatever the case‚ a centuries-long tradition of using spit on the leather has been done away with because of the coronavirus and how it spreads through saliva.

Former Proteas paceman and Knights head coach Allan Donald said not using spit to shine the ball will take getting used to. “It’s going to be tough to control because we’ve been doing that since the game started many moons ago. There’s going to be strict rules with regards to ball management. I guess players will use common sense and be careful in terms of how they do it‚” Donald said.

The ICC needs to look at alternative forms of ball management, he said, such as throwing the ball on the bounce on the pitch square during certain times in a game, to keep the bowlers interested.

“I’m not saying you’re allowed to bring bottle tops and all sorts of things on the field and biting the ball. There have been horrendous examples of ball-tampering and that’s not on‚” Donald said.

“I think you should be allowed to throw the ball in the dirt or on the pitch square for about four or five overs to get some movement going. When you go through that period and you haven’t shined the ball and found a really scuffed-up side‚ you have to get the shine looked after very well.

“You don’t want to overmoisturise the shiny side while keeping the other side dry. Sometimes that’s the only option you’ll have to change the game‚ especially when there’s the pitch square that you can use and that’s not a foreign element.”

Former Proteas captain and SuperSport commentator Shaun Pollock was a bit more forthright‚ saying bowlers will learn to find a way to adapt to just using sweat. He advocated against the use of nefarious methods to maintain the ball.

“People have used sweat for many years so they’ll find a way. It will be challenging‚ but people are conscious of working with the ball and keeping it in the best condition‚” Pollock said.

“It’s vital to any team so they assign specific people to shine the ball. I suspect it’ll be a similar case now. It’s going to be a case of getting the right people in the right places from a ball-management perspective.

“I don’t think tampering is the right word to use‚ but finding different ways if the current one doesn’t work. Maybe that could be some sort of product down the line to polish it‚ but that’s not going to happen in the short term. I also don’t think the route of legally tampering with the ball will be pursued.”

When the question was put to Cricket SA’s chief medical officer Shuaib Manjra about using sweat, he said the jury was still out on whether it contains the virus.