It may be a revered tradition, but in the post-COVID world bowlers will be unable to polish the ball with their spit, threatening to seriously impact the game, as the gradual degradation of the ball plays a major role in the game, affecting the pace of play.
Usually, bowlers shine one side of the ball with their spit. This smooths one side, while the other becomes rougher and rougher, allowing for bowls that ‘swing’ more, and are therefore harder for the batsman to keep track of. However, the use of spit is considered a danger, due to the increased threat of infection. It may seem minor, but ball-shining is very important within cricket. The 2018 Aussie ball-tampering scandal was caused by the use of sandpaper to ‘rough-up’ one side of the ball, instantaneously making every bowl very difficult to anticipate.
Australian speedster Brett Lee has backed the idea of using wax to shine the cricket ball. However, this is in clear contravention of the pre-existing ‘Laws of Cricket’, which specify that you may not polish the ball with any substance besides spit, or sweat. Also, certain types of wax might be far more or less effective than spit, and could ruin the normal pace of the game. There isn’t enough time to test waxes out, find an effective replacement and enough supplies, and make sure that it is the type of wax used universally across the game.
Playing without shining the ball means that batting does not become increasingly harder, also changing the pace of the game. If the pace of play dramatically changes, it is unfair upon the cricketers, who are under a huge amount of pressure to play at the top of their game. The onus is upon bowlers to out-think and out-manoeuvre the batsman, and tactical advantages (like the bowler’s control of the state of the ball) really matter.
There is no easy solution, and we can only hope that the ICC understand that they have a responsibility to ensure that the game continues, with Coronavirus having as little an impact as possible, and are trying to come up with effective and proper solutions.
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Last modified: 18th June 2020