With the sporting world currently engulfed in a cloud created by the spread of coronavirus, India and South Africa take on each other in the first of the three-match One-Day International series on Thursday. And one of the questions the teams had to answer on the eve of the first match: do they use saliva to shine the ball?
Using saliva to keep the cricket ball new is a common practice in cricket but India pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar was not sure if his side would be able to do that against South Africa over coronavirus concerns.
India have insisted the three matches against South Africa will go ahead despite growing fears over the virus. The number of cases in India has doubled to 60 in four days. The disease can be spread when small droplets containing it land on objects that are then touched by a person, who then touches their eyes, nose or mouth, according to the World Health Organization, reported AFP.
Kumar said the Indian cricket team will defer the decision to the team doctors over whether bowlers can or should rub on one side of the leather ball to help it swing. A decision will be taken at a team meeting ahead of the first game in Dharamsala on Thursday, he said.
“I can’t say right now we will not use saliva because if we don’t use saliva then how will we shine the ball?” Kumar told reporters. “Then we will get hit and you people will say you are not bowling well.”
Kumar said bowlers would follow the doctors’ orders: “But it’s a valid point (concern) and let’s see we will have a team meeting today and whatever instruction we get or whatever is the best option, we will do that. It all depends on the team doctor and what advice he gives us,” said the 31-year-old pacer, who is returning after recovering from hernia surgery. They have already been told to stay away from fans, Kumar added.
South Africa coach Mark Boucher has said his players should avoid handshakes at matches because of the virus, which has killed more than 4,000 people worldwide.
Cricket South Africa approved the India tour after medical and security experts gave it the green light.
Team captain Quinton De Kock said both teams had been tested and were healthy, adding South Africa would continue to use saliva.
“We understand the corona thing but it doesn’t change. Hygiene is a big thing. Washing hands, the way you cough or sneeze. It’s about making sure how you personally maintain hygiene and if you do so you will be alright. Be aware of what you touch, just be careful,” de Kock said.
“There are some fine lines but I think both the teams are healthy. We have been tested on our way to India so I think we will still shine the ball. Our team doctor and management have made sure that we all are fit and don’t have coronavirus so we will keep the ball shinning,” he added.
Kumar insisted all players will take every precaution to tackle the coronavirus, but refused to speculate on whether the Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament should start on March 29.
“You cannot say anything right now because it’s taking a dangerous situation in India. But we are taking every precaution we can take. We have a team doctor with us and he is giving us instructions about dos and don’ts. So we hope it won’t go (spread) much further,” he said.
The second international is in Lucknow on Sunday and the third in Kolkata on March 18.
(With AFP and PTI inputs)