The International Cricket Council’s (ICC) no-saliva regulation will be in effect when England take on West Indies in the first Test in Manchester on July 8 — the first game in almost four months. The underlining concern is the new regulation — albeit an absolute necessity in the circumstances — could be a deterrent for the bowlers who would find it difficult to swing the ball, especially the older one, if they don’t get the ball to shine properly in absence of saliva.
There have been calls from certain quarters to legalise ball-tampering, which led to some manufacturers trying to make an acceptable, artificial shining agent. However, Dilip Jajodia, owner of Dukes balls, claims the new rule will have very little impact in Test cricket in England.
“I can tell you the Dukes balls used in England don’t need saliva to retain shine. The balls that are going to be used in the England’s two upcoming Test series (against West Indies and Pakistan) won’t be any different from the ones used earlier. There has been no attempt to tinker with the manufacturing of the balls,” Jajodia told TOI.
Sanspareils Greenlands (SG), who produce red balls for Test cricket in India, are one of the international ball manufacturers who tried to come up with a wax that could help shine the ball. But the idea had to be shelved because the ICC didn’t allow the use of artificial agent.
SG is also sticking to their technique of making red balls.
“We have not got any feedback from the Indian cricket board (BCCI) and the ICC. We will continue making the balls as we did unless there is any request for any change in specifications of the ball,” Paras Anand, SG’s marketing and sales director, told TOI. “The international cricketers are smart enough to come up with new ways to prepare a ball,” he added.
Coming to the first international match next week and how the game could be different from the last international game on March 13, Jajodia tries to tone down the raging debate.
“All this noise (about the need to have saliva) has come from the southern hemisphere. The use of saliva is overhyped. It all depends on the construction and design of a ball. A Dukes ball can retain its shine if the players use cotton towels to rub the balls. Cotton is a natural fabric as opposed to polyester and it helps in shining the balls. Using perspiration and rubbing the ball on cotton towel should be good enough to have a good shine on the ball,” Jajodia claimed.
Jajodia further added: “The Dukes ball is hand-stitched. So the seam of the ball stays profound and acts as radar as opposed to machine-stitched balls which get flat seam once they get older. Even the SG balls are hand-stitched. But the Dukes ball has grease on its leather that helps. So, when the lacquer crumbles, use of perspiration is good enough. The hardness of the balls which allows to bounce more is also critical for spinners”
Putting things in perspective, the 75-year-old referred to bowlers from yesteryears who barely used saliva to shine the ball.
“The bowlers till the ’80s worked very hard on the balls. Most of them carried towels with them on the field. These days, players barely rub the balls on their trousers,” he pointed.
While the red ball has a cult identity of its own, one can’t ignore the other variants of a cricket ball — which are crucial to the game’s money-minting strategies. The limited-overs format has anyway almost taken the swinging ball out of the game — saliva or no saliva. But Jajodia feels if the construction of the balls is revisited, then it would be possible to have a single ball for an entire innings instead of two balls and that would keep the bowlers in the game.
The cricket ball also became a talking point when day-night Tests and pink balls were introduced. The pink ball too has been fighting a battle of perception–if ever it can be conducive to reverse swing and also aide the spinners. The pink ball has managed to convince that it can move around for a longer period of time despite having extra layers of laquer and colour pigments.
Is there any chance of implying the same technique for the red ball now? Both Jajodia and Anand refuted the idea.
“The white and pink balls are the same. But red ball has its own characteristics. We need to add colour pigments to the white and pink balls,” Jajodia claimed. “The pink ball appears to swing for a longer period because of the use of artificial lights and it affects the hand-eye coordination of the batsmen,” he added.
As much as the cricket-lovers are eagerly waiting for resumption, there will be quite a few anxious discerning eyes following how the cricket ball behaves next week onwards!