Saliva ban 'only temporary' as ICC says no to artificial shine
Anil Kumble, head of the ICC committee that wants to ban saliva, reaffirmed the governing body's stance against allowing artificial substances into the game
25 May 2020, 11:06 AM AEST
A ban on the use of saliva to shine the cricket ball in international cricket would only be a temporary measure, the head of the International Cricket Council's influential Cricket Committee has said.
Anil Kumble, the former India spinner who now chairs the 16-person committee, said saliva could not be permanently banned, but stressed the governing body was strongly against allowing any artificial substances into the game.
"This is only an interim measure and as long as we have, hopefully, control over COVID in a few months or a year's time then I think things will go back to as normal as it can be," Kumble told the Star Sports television channel.
"We have been very critical and we have been very focused on eliminating any external substances coming into the game."
Australia's pace spearhead Pat Cummins had urged cricket's lawmakers to sanction the use of an artificial substance to shine the ball during the COVID-19 pandemic during the saliva ban.
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."
Former Australia bowler Ryan Harris endorsed Cummins comments, and said without assistance for bowlers Test cricket would become too lopsided towards batters.
"Without the ball moving around, without improving wickets … something needs to happen or bowlers are going to break more, because they'll be bowling more, and spectators are going to be turning off," Harris said on SEN.
"You'll end up getting scores like 3-600 and it's not a good game to watch."
The ICC's Cricket Committee last week recommended banning the use of saliva to shine a ball during the COVID-19 pandemic, but players' sweat would still be allowed to be used.
The committee also recommended ditching the neutral umpire system for Test cricket that had been in use since 2002, and adding an extra use of the Decision Review System per innings, per format.
The full ICC board is expected to vote on the measures in June.
Earlier reports the ICC was considering legalising the use of artificial substances on the ball to assist bowlers proved unfounded, although Australian cricket ball manufacturer Kookaburra has said it is developing a wax applicator that allows players to shine the ball without using saliva or sweat, minimising the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
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.
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."
Kountouris says he's "quietly confident" matches will commence as planned this coming summer if the country continues on its current path of minimising the spread of the COVID-19 virus, adding that testing will soon commence on whether disinfecting the ball during a match will also be an effective way to lessen the health risks to players.
"Disinfecting the ball is a consideration," he said.
"We don't know the impact on the ball (yet) because we haven't tested it. We'd obviously have to test it, we'd have to speak to the ICC and get permission, there's a lot of things (to consider). And whether it's effective or not. The ball being leather, it's harder to disinfect because it's got little nooks and crevices.
"So we don't know how effective it's going to be, we don't know how infected the ball is going to get and we don't know if it's going to be allowed.
"But it's absolutely a consideration. Everything is on the table at the moment, everything is being considered."