As resumption of cricket is being contemplated, there are questions to be asked about the preventive manner in which bowlers and close circle fielders can be persuaded to change their ways with the International Cricket Council’s cricket committee now restricting the use of saliva to shine the ball.
While players contemplate longer quarantine periods prior to the start of the tour, there are questions abounding about how players can implement the notion that the cricket committee has set up about banning the use of saliva to shine the ball but not seeing the problem with sweat. While hygiene practices would advocate the ban of both, it would seem that there would be some period in which the rules would be reinterpreted and more importantly adapted.
Bad habits are hard to die. That is to say, now that the use of saliva has been banned as a way to exploit the ball against the batsman, it will require a period of training and familiarizing oneself with the new habits because the tendency of bowlers and close fielders has been to traditionally shine the ball to keep one side smooth while the other side gets rough to aid reverse swing. The tendency of cricketers generally to lick their fingers and then shine the ball will be a habit that will die hard, pandemic notwithstanding.
It would appear that in such a scenario, cricket will be left with another alternative, plausibly the only alternative to this story if the habit is to be immediately implemented is to make it mandatory on all cricketers to take to the field with a mask across their face at all times. It would be taking measures to a stretch given that the players are expected to undergo the mandatory two week period of quarantine and training and also, are expected to not come in contact with too many people and venues and also, play behind closed gates.
However, keeping in mind the role that saliva has traditionally played in the way the cricketers handle the ball and matters on the field, it seems this will be a practice that will take some time. With players already advised to carry their own balls in training when bowling and regular clean down on equipment, while this means additional time and patience and routine, it would seem that dropping this habit is going to be quite the feat for few of the players who like to occasionally use saliva.
Will cricket become the cleaner for it? Plausibly. Is this an easy habit to drop? Not likely. Will it mean cricketers will now be encouraged, like other sportspersons, to not spit on the field, either whether with or without chewing gum? They should. Will the only alternate then be watching cricketers with numbers on their back and masks on their faces? Possibly since some sportspersons are likely to carry these habits to the sports field as well. Keep your masks on.