Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Bhuvneshwar Kumar attends a practice session at Dharamsala ahead of their first One Day International against South Africa. Kumar revealed that the Indian bowlers have been barred from using saliva to derive swing and movement. Image Credit: AFP

Why do bowlers/fielders shine the ball?

Shining the cricket ball is an important component of modern day bowling. The bowlers are up against hard-hitting batsmen, who are protected from head to toe so the fear or injury factor is taken out of equation, high-quality equipments and batsmen-friendly pitches. In order to surprise these batsmen and test their technique or lack of it, both pacers and spin bowlers depend on the shine of the ball, especially when it is old, in order to get the reverse swing and the drift to induce the batsmen into a false shot.

What is the legal way of shining the ball?

Sweat and saliva: The fielding team uses sweat and more often on saliva to keep the ball shining. These are legal forms of keeping the leather shining, as allowed by the International Cricket Council. However, there are many illegal ways to keep the ball shining:

What are the other ways used to shine the ball?

Sandpaper: The sandpaper is used to scruff one side of the ball so that it will start reverse swinging. Australian skipper Steve Smith, his deputy David Warner and Bancroft were slapped with long bans after Bancroft was caught using sandpaper during the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town.

Bottle caps/zipper: A bottle cap or the zipper is used to scruff the ball on one side to enable it to reverse swing. Former Pakistan skipper and current Prime Minister Imran Khan, in his autobiography, said that he used bottle caps to scruff one side of the ball. Other objects used included screwdrivers, pen knives and screws. The trick was to scruff up one side of the old ball and keep the other side dry and shiny. This, he revealed, would enable the old ball to reverse swing

Candies: The sweetened saliva will make the ball heavier on one side and allow it to drift more than usual. Rahul Dravid, former Indian legend, rubbed a cough lozenge on the shiny side of the ball at The Gabba during an Australian Tri-Series match against Zimbabwe. India won the match, but footage emerged of Dravid tampering with the ball and he was fined 50 per cent of his match fee. Faf du Plessis was charged after television footage appeared to show him applying saliva and residue from a mint to the ball during the fourth day’s play in the second Test against Australia in Hobart.

Dirt: England captain Mike Atherton used it at the Lord’s in 1994. He was fined £3,000 after being found to have dirt in his pocket, which he claimed was used to dry one side of the ball.

Multiple bounces or rolling the ball from the boundary: The umpires are vigilant these days to ensure the ball reaches the fielder/wicketkeeper in maximum of one bounce as multiple bounces will allow it to be scruffed up sooner than expected.

Vaseline/Sunblock: Can act as a shining agent to keep the ball glossy on one side. This will help the bowlers gain prodigious swing and induce errors from the batsmen. There is a famous incident from 1977 in which it was alleged English bowler John Lever rubbed Vaseline on one side of the ball to assist with swing. The same has been said of sunblock.

Fingernails: The fielding team had used fingernails to create small marks to generate more swing. Players also use fingernails to pick the seam of the ball in order to extract more bounce and swing. Pakistan were indicted by umpire Darrell Hair during a 2006 Test against England. The match ended up being forfeited by the Pakistan team as they protested the decision.

In 2001, Sachin Tendulkar was caught by cameras of him scuffing the seam of the cricket ball. Tendulkar, however, claimed he was actually just removing a piece of grass stuck in the seam of the ball, but the Indian legend was suspended for one game.