The perceived loss of swing in the wake of ICC Cricket Committee’s temporary recommendation to prohibit the use of saliva to polish the ball (to tackle COVID-19) and not allow any artificial material as a substitute has divided opinion sharply.
The ball manufacturers, whose responsibility it will ultimately be to ensure that the cherry behaves as it should, seem to be taking divergent stands too, but only slightly.
“A few days ago Anil Kumble spoke about how instead of playing around with the ball you should rework the pitches. I think that’s a great suggestion. This way I won’t have to do much (laugh),” said Paras Anand, director in Sanspareils Greenlands (SG) that supplies the SG balls for Ranji Trophy and Test cricket in India.
“On a serious note, we are looking at all ways to give bowlers some advantage. Without saliva, I doubt fast bowlers will be able to reverse swing. So we’ve made the seam more prominent to help in lateral movement; create a harder core so that the ball will bounce more; add one more layer of lacquer to extend the lifespan.”
Dilip Jajodia, the owner of British Cricket Balls Limited that manufactures the Dukes ball used in England and the West Indies, is adamant that no changes are required.
“Swing is not just about the shiny side; the ball has to keep its shape and hardness,” he explained.
“In the hand-stitched Dukes ball, the shoulders drop down much more like a circle than other balls which go out like an apple. The latter is not the right shape for swing. Dukes doesn’t need saliva because we already have grease in the leather. Perspiration is allowed and if you give it a vigorous polish, it should be fine.”
Jajodia felt that the initial call for introduction of artificial substances and the ensuing debate appeared to be responding to immediate requirements.
“The fast bowlers are like ‘oh we can’t swing the ball...’ Why don’t you ask if there is a spinner who will be better off and might get wickets? Playing conditions shouldn’t be changed that easily. It’s okay if it is a universal problem, but it’s not!”
Paras, on his part, said that he would wait for the BCCI to spell out its requirements.
“Obviously, we can’t change the dimensions of the ball but we can tweak the making of it. But this is just us preparing for what ‘might be’. We will have to wait for the BCCI to come to us before we ‘standardise’ anything.”