Cummins wants other options following saliva ban
Fast bowlers 'have to have another option' if saliva is banned from being used on the ball, according to Australia's star quick
20 May 2020, 07:00 PM AEST
Australia’s pace spearhead Pat Cummins has urged cricket's lawmakers to sanction the use of an artificial substance to shine the ball during the COVID-19 pandemic now that saliva looks set to be banned.
The ICC's Cricket Committee this week proposed a prohibition on players using saliva to maintain the ball due to the risk of spreading the coronavirus, but the use of sweat remains a legal option.
Cummins accepts the health reasons for the proposed rule change and wants safety to be a priority at all levels of the game, but said long-suffering fast bowlers need more help to stop the game becoming more batter-friendly, especially on lifeless Australian pitches.
"If we remove saliva, we have to have another option," he told cricket.com.au.
"Sweat's not bad, but I think we need something more than that, ideally. Whatever that is, wax or I don't know what.
"If that's what that science is telling us, that it's high risk using saliva ... as long as we're keeping other options open, whether that's sweat or something artificial.
"We have to be able to shine the ball somehow so I'm glad they've let sweat remain.
"We've just got to make sure at the start of the spell we're sweating and we're nice and warm."
Earlier this month, Australian manufacturer Kookaburra said it had developed a wax applicator that would allow cricket balls to be shined without using sweat or saliva.
The use of such a substance in matches would require a change to The Laws of Cricket, which explicitly says fielders must not use "artificial substances" to alter the condition of the ball.
While the Australian Institute of Sport’s (AIS) framework for the return of sport explicitly calls out both saliva and sweat as a risk factor in spreading the disease, the ICC Cricket Committee's chief medico Peter Harcourt declared this week it is "highly unlikely" COVID-19 can be transmitted through sweat.
It's given fast bowlers like Cummins some hope, but he said only using sweat to maintain the ball would still provide a set of challenges.
"Late in the day in Australia it’ll be fine, but certainly on a cold day (it could be difficult)," he said.
"Your slip cordon is normally the ones shining the ball and they're not huge sweaters standing there all day. It'll be interesting, it'll be an adjustment.
"Hopefully we'll get to a stage where saliva is deemed safe. Hopefully we can go back to that, to how it was."
To help redress the imbalance between bat and ball, Cummins repeated the annual Australian fast-bowlers' plea for curators to prepare pitches with more life in them.
"In the last few years, I feel like it's hardly swung at all," Cummins said while acknowledging the surfaces in Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide last summer did provide an even contest.
"Hopefully, like we always say, the wickets will be a bit juicer to suit us bowlers."
Despite the AIS framework prohibiting the use of sweat to shine the ball, Cricket Australia's Sports Science & Sports Medicine Manager Alex Kountouris backed the ICC committee's ruling and said the changing advice reflects the uncertainty around the new virus.
And he said he would support an artificial substance being legalised if it helped reduce the health risk to players.
"This is all emerging pretty quickly and when the AIS put the document together, there probably wasn't enough evidence to support it one way or another," he said. "And to be honest, there still isn't.
"We're certainly looking into it ... to find what sort of evidence is out there.
"What we’re trying to mitigate is the medical risk.
"If the ICC eventually allow an artificial substance - I'm not sure what's been tested and what's known about it at the moment - that would probably be a good thing. But it's hard to know at the moment what's available on the market and what impact it will have on the ball.
"What we don't want is to create an inadvertent problem.
"I like protecting our fast bowlers so we want them to have a fair balance as well."
Cummins' fast-bowling partner, Josh Hazlewood, said on Tuesday he was sceptical about how effective sweat will be if saliva is indeed banned.
"Sweat probably makes it a bit wetter, if that makes sense. Makes it a bit heavier," Hazlewood told News Corp.
"Whereas saliva, you can control the amount you put on there a bit more.
"For the big sweaters, it's hard to get a little bit of sweat off your forehead to put on."