Former India captain and current ICC Cricket Committee chairman Anil Kumble on Wednesday reiterated the panel’s reluctance to allow use of artificial substances on the ball despite the saliva ban, saying the balance between bat and ball can be maintained by “playing around” with the pitches.
The Committee had recommended a ban on the use of saliva on the ball last month to deal with the rising threat of coronavirus but did not allow use of artificial substances despite a discussion over it. The move led to calls of an alternative to saliva from current and former players including India pacer Jasprit Bumrah.
“In cricket you have the surface that you can play around with and bring about a balance between the bat and ball,” said Kumble at a FICCI webinar.
The bowlers will miss using saliva the most in Test cricket as it aids them in generating both conventional and reverse swing.
“You can still probably leave grass on the surface or even have two spinners,” said Kumble. “Let’s get spinners back in the game in a Test, because in a one-day game or T20 game you are not really worried about shining the ball. It’s Test matches that we are talking about. And in a Test match, why not get two spinners to play in Australia and England, which doesn’t happen often.”
Like he had said right after recommending saliva ban as an interim measure, Kumble reiterated that allowing the use of artificial substances will take creativity out of the game.
“We can probably use some other substance on the ball. All these years we have been very, very stringent on what to use or what not to use on the ball,” he said. “We’ve been very strict about substances that have been used on the ball. That was something that we felt, the creativity was something that we should not (tinker with).”
Kumble, however, admitted that it would be hard for players to adjust to not using saliva.
“It is second nature in cricket, players will find it hard to manage. That’s why I believe that at training, they’d like to start slowly because it’s not just about coming back and playing cricket in a match,” he said.
“It’s also about coming back from two and a half months of being locked up. Especially if you’re a bowler, you need to have those bowling overs under your belt before you start competing. So, it’s important that you slowly and gradually come back towards normalcy. The advantage that cricket has over other sports is that there’s an element of adjustable variance in the pitch.”
Kumble said the ICC committee’s recommendations focused on resumption of cricket at the earliest.
“I know there’s been a lot of debate about shining the ball but the idea was to kickstart cricket, play the sport, and then I’m sure things will fall in place. Yes, there will be some challenges. You have to go one game at a time,” he said.
“We’ve given just broad guidelines from the ICC to the various boards because each country has its own challenges. You see in India, for example, Maharashtra has its own challenges, Karnataka is different etc.”
Talking about the proposed Test series between England and West Indies next month, Kumble said gaining match fitness won’t be easy for the players who have been out of action for more than two months.
“The players will need to have some sort of a cushion, some sort of a backup in terms of loading up the body to be able to sustain Test match cricket. Because bowling 30 overs is not going to be easy and even for a batsman, the muscles that you use when you’re batting are totally different,” he said.
“In a match situation, you’re doing everything at a split second and then you’re not training for those, especially in a home condition. So, you need to fill it up and probably have a few friendly games before you get into an important Test match.”
Kumble said one way of managing players’ workload in the current situation is treating them as a group which is making a comeback from injury.
“That’s all you need to look at, the entire squad now saying okay, they’ve all been injured for the last three months, they are now coming back into training,” he said. “So, you need to slowly load them up and then start building their skill levels. I think it’s mostly the confidence. Once the players are out and training, it comes back very quickly.”