Dubai: A ball pre-weighted on one side or legalised wax applicator to help it retain polish? The concern over the use of saliva in these times of COVID-19, an age-old tool for the pace bowler to derive swing, has opened up suggestions of some strange alternatives.
Shane Warne, the Australian great, has pitched in with a radical one at a cricket podcast: “Why can’t the ball be weighted on one side so it always swings? It would be like a taped tennis ball or like with the lawn bowls.”
“I’m not sure you’d want it to hoop around corners like Wasim (Akram) and Waqar (Younis) but it could swing and give the seamer something on flat wickets when it’s hot and the pitch is at it’s flattest on day two, day three.” Pakistan greats Akram and Younis are considered the foremost exponents of reverse swing, which is generated by shining one side of the ball while keeping the other side rough.
A weighted ball would also pre-empt any ball-tampering, Warne said. “You wouldn’t have to worry about anyone tampering with it with bottle tops, sandpaper, or whatever. It would be a good competition between bat and ball.”
Compared with the rule changes to make way for heavier bats, Warne felt that the ball used in cricket has not really evolved over the years.
“If you pick up one of the bats you started with in the ‘80s, and then one you used at the end of your career, it’s like four of your old ones stuck together - but the thing is lighter! So why has the ball not evolved? If anything, it has got worse,” he said without mincing words.
Meanwhile, Kookaburra - the Australian cricket ball manufacturers - are developing a wax applicator that allows players to shine the ball without using saliva or sweat, minimising the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Kookaburra said its wax applicator, while still in “very early stage product development”, could provide a solution.
“At Kookaburra we are committed to continuous improvement and innovation in the game we love,” general manager David Orchard said in an interview to AFP.
“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic we are always looking for solutions to allow our game to be played safely by all cricketing communities around the world,” he said.
While current laws forbid the use of artificial substances to alter the ball, the International Cricket Council (ICC) pondered the risk over use of saliva once competitive cricket resumes after the pandemic eases out at a recent video conference call among it’s Chief Executives. There are unconfirmed reports of the ICC mulling over allowing external substances, though some experts on the subject have strongly scoffed at such a suggestion.
Speaking to Gulf News in a recent interview, former Indian pace bowler Venkatesh Prasad said: ‘‘Allowing any external application will be like permitting performance-enhancing drugs in athletics.’’