ICC considering radical rule change

Publish Date
Sunday, 26 April 2020, 1:27PM
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Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft faced immense public scrutiny and copped lengthy bans for the censured action, yet a form of legalised ball-tampering could prove a catalyst for cricket's return from lockdown, ESPNcricinfo reported.

Like most of society during the coronavirus epidemic, cricket has been temporarily shut down, with uncertainty surrounding how and when the sport can return.

One potential threat to cricket's return is the fabled tradition of "shining" the ball. Seam bowlers use saliva and sweat to make one side of the ball shinier than the other, causing it to swing through the air. Bancroft infamously attempted a different strategy in Cape Town two years ago.

Considering a cricket ball goes through the hands of at least 24 people during the course of a match, one of the game's indispensable customs becomes a genuine health hazard amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The solution would seem obvious to those who haven't played the game – simply ban the appliance of bodily liquids to the ball. Problem solved.

But the practice of shining the ball is an essential component of test cricket. Without a swinging ball, batting against pace bowlers becomes a considerably easier task.

"If we're going to have to have things in play that really change the way we play the game then … we don't want to break the integrity of how we've played in the past," world No. 1 bowler Pat Cummins said on Monday.

Australian paceman Josh Hazlewood agreed: "Bowlers rely on any sort of sideways movement in the air.

"If you didn't maintain the ball at all for 80 overs it would be quite easy to bat after that initial shine has gone. Whether you use saliva or sweat, maybe one person can do it. I'm not sure. It's something that will have to be talked about when we get back out there and hopefully come up with a solution."

However, the International Cricket Council may have unearthed such a solution.

On Friday, ESPNcricinfo assistant editor Daniel Brettig reported the ICC is considering the possibility of allowing the use of artificial substances to help polish a cricket ball, eradicating the need to apply saliva and sweat.

The Laws of Cricket clearly state "no artificial substance" can be used to polish a match ball – doing so is commonly referred to as ball-tampering – but under the supervision of umpires in long-form matches, players may be permitted to do so until the coronavirus is contained.

If this were the case, it would be horrifically difficult for test pace bowlers to resist the urge to shine the ball in a traditional sense – they have habitually been applying saliva to the red pill between deliveries for decades.

But breaking the routine could become one of the required steps for ensuring cricket can be played safely.

"The situation is rapidly evolving and full of significant risk as there is still a lot to learn about Covid-19 which can make decision making difficult," head of the ICC's medical committee Dr Peter Harcourt said.

"The ICC Medical Committee is working with member medical representatives to build a comprehensive picture of the issues cricket is facing."

This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission