Anil Kumble, chairman of the Cricket Committee of International Cricket Committee, sought to diffuse health concerns for cricketers by recommending a ban on use of saliva by the bowlers. Image Credit: PTI

Dubai: The sport of cricket will be deprived of one if it’s most common sights when international competition resumes in a few months’ time - that of a fast bowler or his teammates applying saliva to polish one side of the ball to derive swing or movement in the air. In what looks like more of an ‘‘interim’’ and hygienic measure, the Cricket Committee of the International Cricket Council (ICC) recommended banning the usage of saliva to polish the match ball - while use of sweat to retain the shine will be acceptable.

The decision of the committee which met on video conference, chaired by former India captain Anil Kumble and comprising high-profile ex-international stars such as Andrew Strauss, Mahela Jayawardene, Rahul Dravid and Shaun Pollock, will now be presented for ratification to the ICC Chief Executives’ Committee in early June - where a seal of approval looks a formality.

“We are living through extraordinary times and the recommendations the committee have made today are interim measures to enable us to safely resume cricket in a way that preserves the essence of our game whilst protecting everyone involved,” said Kumble.

The recommendation, however, evoked a mixed response from the cricket fraternity that Gulf News spoke to - though this looked like the most ovious option available before the Cricket Committee to send out a message to show the ICC has paid due diligence to the health concerns of the players.

Prior to the match, all the players, match officials, ground staff will be be tested as per the ICC protocol and only those getting the green signal will come into the ground. If there are still doubts after that, then we are in no position to resume cricket at all

- Chetan Sharma

“The ICC Cricket Committee heard from the Chair of the ICC Medical Advisory Committee Dr Peter Harcourt regarding the elevated risk of the transmission of the virus through saliva, and unanimously agreed to recommend that the use of saliva to polish the ball be prohibited,” said a statement.

“The committee also noted the medical advice that it is highly unlikely that the virus can be transmitted through sweat and saw no need to prohibit the use of sweat to polish the ball whilst recommending that enhanced hygiene measures are implemented on and around the playing field.”

Speaking in a telephonic interview, Chetan Sharma, former international pace bowler and the first from India to record a World Cup hat-trick, felt the move was not full-proof to ensure hygienic safety for the cricketers. ‘‘How can you ensure that just by stopping the bowlers or fielders from applying spit on the ball, you can stop the ball from being a carrier of germs? Any cricketer, during a period of six hours on the field at a Test match or the 50 overs when his team is fielding in a ODI, can inadvertantly touch his face or moist his lips during high humidity to wipe off sweat and then handle the ball.


‘‘Prior to the match, I am sure that all the players, match officials, groundstaff will be be tested as per the ICC protocol and only those getting the green signal will come into the ground. If there are still doubts after that, then we are in no position to resume cricket at all,’’ said Sharma.

Echoing similar sentiments, Ranadeb Bose, Bengal’s pace bowling coach and the highest wicket-taker among fast bowlers from the state, said that such a move will makes the odds heavier for the bowlers. ‘‘Applying sweat makes the ball heavier and often creates it’s own dynamics. This is why bowlers prefer to apply saliva - isn’t like robbing the bowlers of a legitimate tool?,’’ Bose said.

With the global travel restrictions very much in place and the quarantine procedure also manadtory for players as well as the officials, Kumble’s committee recommended that local match officials be appointed in the short-term.

“The appointments will continue to be made via the ICC from local Elite and International Panel referees and umpires. Where there are no Elite Panel match officials in the country, the best local International Panel match officials will be appointed.

“The committee also recommended that the use of technology is increased to support thfore appointments of a wider pool of umpires from around the world and has proposed an additional DRS review per team per innings is introduced in each format as an interim measure.”