No big deal

By SANJAY MYERS, Jamaica Observer,

Coach Coley not concerned bowlers will be disadvantaged by proposed ICC rule change

JAMAICA’S senior cricket team coach, Andre Coley says a ban on the use of saliva to polish balls is unlikely to be the game changer that some are expecting.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) recently announced that a committee convened to review guidelines to mitigate exposure of the novel coronavirus — which causes the COVID-19 disease — had recommended the prohibition of using saliva on the ball. The ICC added that using sweat to shine the ball will be allowed since, based on medical advice, it is unlikely the virus can be transmitted in that way.

The recommendations are to be presented to a committee of ICC chief executives this month for approval.

Players on the fielding team shine one side of a cricket ball while the opposite is left to deteriorate through natural wear and tear. This process helps bowlers to swing the ball in the air, especially as it gets more worn.

Some have suggested that the proposed change will be disadvantageous to bowlers, especially in cooler conditions which are less prone to cause sweating.

“I don’t think it’s going to make much of a difference, actually, because I don’t know that there’s a high percentage of bowlers who do it [use saliva],” Coley told the Jamaica Observer.

“I think more bowlers use the stuff on the skin, stuff on the forehead and sweat from the forearm; so I think it’s something players should be able to transition to. We use a lot of sunscreen [creams] these days and using the sweat to shine the ball is also a practice over the years,” the Jamaica Scorpions head coach noted.

Current ICC laws forbid the use of artificial substances to alter the ball, but the skin creams that some players use mingled with sweat have been known to boost moisture for shining the ball.

Some cricket equipment manufacturers are also exploring the use of a wax applicator to shine cricket balls without saliva or sweat. Any such implementation would require the ICC’s approval, with match officials likely overseeing the process.

Dr Akshai Mansingh, a member of the ICC medical advisory panel which was consulted by the cricket committee, emphasised that the ban on saliva is not a permanent measure.

“There are two things that are happening in parallel. Firstly, the ban will probably be lifted once the public health risk has been negated, and that is really when coronavirus dies down to the extent that it is not a public health risk — God [alone] knows when that is going to be.

“On the other hand there are companies like Kookaburra who are developing a balm to use on the ball instead of using body fluids. So, you can see where the cricket companies are looking at alternatives,” Jamaican-based Mansingh, a sports medicine physician and Cricket West Indies (CWI) board director, told the Observer.

He added: “I think in the future you’re gonna find the practice of using body fluids reduced, and using other substances which can perhaps keep the shine or keep the smoothness on one side [become common]. It’s a race between which one is going to happen first, and the saliva story, I think, is going to be there as long as COVID-19 is there.”

Jamaica and West Indies batsman Jermaine Blackwood said it might be hard to break the habit, but he noted that protecting the health of players is paramount.

“As a kid I always used saliva on the cricket ball, so it will take a time for players to adjust to that. But, I think we just have to find a different way to shine the ball. But the [move to ban using] saliva on the ball is really good. It’s all about keeping the players [safe] first and that is one [good] step the ICC is taking,” the 28-year-old cricketer said.

To date, COVID-19 disease has reportedly caused close to 380,000 deaths worldwide.

Photo: Jamaica’s senior cricket team coach, Andre Coley