What fast bowlers need to do to swing a cricket ball without saliva

Image Courtesy: Getty/TOI/AP
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The COVID-19 pandemic of the past few months have made an impact on world sports in more than one way. In addition to a long suspension of all fixtures, tournaments and tours, a number of new rules and regulations have been implemented across several sports as means of precautions and as a counter measure against contamination.


One of them belongs to cricket, the ban on the use of saliva, which is an age old method used by pace bowlers to swing the ball, and the ban is currently in effect in the ongoing three match Test series between England and West Indies.

Image Courtesy: Getty/TOI/AP

From the bowler at the non striking end of the pitch to the keeper behind the wickets, the cricket ball is treated with multiple polishes of saliva on one side, to generate swerve in the next delivery. Although the method is surely insanitary in the gentleman’s game, the benefits were worth for the pacers.


However, now with the prevalence of the novel Coronavirus, saliva possess a high chance of contaminating the virus, and handling a saliva polished ball during a match creates a risky affair for all the players on the field. When the medical guidelines are strictly to use masks and to avoid touching your mouth, licking your finger to shine a cricket match ball, termed a ‘vector of the disease’ by the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is surely not a good idea.

The ICC’s implementation of the ban in June, on the same day the Windies arrived at England for the series. While the decision, recommended by former Indian bowling icon and captain Anil Kumble has been widely accepted by players, as bowlers are retraining themselves to let go of their habit of wetting their fingers, there are a number of ways the seamers can achieve swerving the ball. Lets look at them below-


1. Sweat:

Although saliva usage has been prohibited, the ICC gave no red signal to use sweat for shining the ball. “…it is highly unlikely that the virus can be transmitted through sweat and saw no need to prohibit the use of sweat to polish the ball…” the ICC release had stated last month.

No saliva? No stress: Sweat is a hugely effective alternative for the age old method of shining the ball. (Image Courtesy: Deccan Herald/TOI)

Using sweat will be very useful for cricketers in humid climates such as India and Australia. Wiping off perspiration mixed with sunscreen from forehead will be a pretty effective alternative for pacers. While this method may not be that useful in dry and winter conditions, there is another way to get the job done.

2. Dukes Ball:

The Dukes ball, used in English cricket, can be shined on one side without using any bodily fluid. As stated by Dilip Jajodia, the owner of Dukes ball manufacturing company British Cricket Balls Ltd, rubbing the ball on the trousers will allow the grease inside to come out and shine one side of the ball, thus, allowing it to swing. Although saliva used to speed up the process, it is still better than nothing.

The answer lies in the question: The waterproofing grease inside the Dukes balls of England is a good shining alternative. (Image Courtesy: Getty)

While the waterproofing grease inside the Dukes ball is allowed, ICC has also banned using wax, as it constitutes as ball tampering. Back in May, Australian manufacturer Kookaburra had proposed the idea of producing a wax applicator as an alternative to both saliva and sweat, but that scheme is now futile.

3. Damp Towel:

South African speedster Lungi Ngidi has recently come up with an interesting idea of using a damp towel to do the shine work. “So now we have to find a game plan to get the ball to swing. Probably a damp towel is the best thing but you’ve got to find something somehow, to shine it,” the 24 year old spoke to ESPNcricinfo.

A no brainer: Proteas speedster Lungi Ngidi proposes the use of damp towel to do the shining work. (Image Courtesy: Getty)

Human life is changing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and with it, the sport of cricket will also see some new changes. While there are some negative views on the saliva ban, the icons of pace bowling will use such alternatives to their best effects.

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