Players have always used the traditional method of shining one side of the ball with saliva and sweat to help generate more movement in the air as it travels towards batsmen.
This changed post Covid and the no-saliva rule was implemented when cricket resumed after a COVID-19 suspension in July 2020. Now, when the new rules come into effect from October 1 this year, using saliva on the ball will be tantamount to ball tampering.
Though the change in laws were received with mixed reactions, cricket ball manufacturers appear to be unfazed with the development.
TimesofIndia.com caught up with Dilip Jajodia, managing director of British Cricket Balls Ltd., which produces the Dukes balls used in England and the West Indies and Paras Anand, Director of Sanspareils Greenlands (SG), the firm which produces the cricket balls used in India.
“I had said earlier that the ban on use of saliva on the cricket ball is not a big deal even though the bowlers were saying that they can’t swing the ball without saliva. Anyways, on the basis of a health hazard, people accepted it. Now they’re saying because that (saliva ban) didn’t cause too many problems, we should just allow sweat and not saliva. And the reason saliva is banned now, is because people suck sweets and the sugar with the saliva causes a sort of a cellulose substance which obviously soaks into the pores of the leather (of the ball) when you apply friction it can assist with the shine. So there is a possibility of taking unfair advantage because you can’t stop somebody from chewing gum or sucking a sweet,” Jajodia told TimesofIndia.com.
Jajodia echoed what the MCC rule changes in fact also mentioned – about how this ban permanently removes the grey area of fielders sucking sweets or mints to thicken their saliva, which in turn can change or alter the nature of the ball if applied on it. It is for this reason that the umpires will also now treat the use of saliva on the ball as ball tampering. The MCC rule for this now states: Using saliva will be treated the same way as any other unfair methods of changing the condition of the ball.
Till now (post Covid), if a fielder accidentally applied saliva on the ball, the ball was immediately sanitised.
“The ban was already in place. When this thing (saliva ban) was discussed in 2020 when cricket resumed, at that time it was a new thing for us. At that time we had done some research and development on how it would affect the game, what are the options, some people had even developed a wax to shine the ball. But what has happened in the last two years is that cricket has happened, both red ball and white ball cricket, not a lot of impact has happened yet.” Paras Anand of SG told TimesofIndia.com.
The MCC said it found through research that the saliva ban had little or no impact on the amount of swing that bowlers were getting. Polishing the ball with sweat will still be allowed.
“Going back to the sweat, I said it has the same effect because basically the body excretes normal grease, for example if you don’t bathe for a week your skin will be very very greasy, so grease is in the body already. So if you’re playing sport specially in a hot climate, in which cricket should be played, as you’re running up and down and you’re sweating, then it (grease) mixes with sweat and if you rub your forehead or the back of your neck, and the dampness that comes on to your hand will contain grease, the natural grease and water, which is the sweat, which you then apply on the leather (of the ball), it soaks it in and as you rub the ball on your trousers, the friction will make the water evaporate and the grease will stay there and it acts like a shoe polish, it shines up the surface. So it won’t be as good as saliva but it certainly will be good enough to help the bowlers. And now I think the bowlers are used to the sweat routine, so I don’t think it (saliva ban) should be too much of a problem,” Jajodia added.
Players the world over of course by now are used to the rule of no saliva. They just have to keep it in mind going ahead as well, since it will now be considered to be a grave offense, though officials are surely likely to not come down very heavily on players who might inadvertently use saliva on the ball – though all players have ample time to be well aware of the new rules, which only come into effect on October 1, 2022.
And if swing is not really being affected, bowlers and fielding sides should really not mind this too much.
“It never looked like that the bowlers have not been able to reverse swing the ball or they have not been able to shine the ball, so just using sweat has also pretty much done the job. It may be taking the bowling team a little longer to prepare the ball but they are able to shine one side more than the other side. There is one player or another in the team who sweats a lot. There is always a player in the XI who sweats a lot and he should be given the job to apply the sweat on the ball. There is no issue of shining the ball with sweat,” Anand added.
Jajodia meanwhile also explained the technicalities of why the Dukes ball for instance won’t really be affected by the saliva ban.
“The Dukes ball has got grease applied to the surface of the leather to waterproof it. There is already grease in the leather. The surface polish, which is only a top coat, it’s a shellac polish that wears off very quickly and you have the grease coming through. So if you apply sweat, which also has some grease mixed in it, you enhance the grease that’s already on the ball. So on the Dukes ball, you can keep the shine going for much longer, then you get the movement and a little bit of activity with the ball. The ball supplied to the West Indies is exactly the same ball but it doesn’t have grease in it, because the pitches are very dry so the ball swings and later on, it doesn’t take the grease enough from your sweat or in the old days, spit or saliva, so it doesn’t swing as much. So the Dukes ball in the West Indies is slightly different therefore that effect would be less,” Jajodia said.
Overall, there have been nine changes made to various laws by the MCC.
The new laws will come into effect from October 1 this year.
(All pics credit: Getty Images)