Banning saliva use to shine the ball because of the pandemic has left bowlers, especially pacers, worried Test cricket would tilt heavily in favour of batsmen with swing hard to obtain. Former India spin ace, Anil Kumble, has urged teams to spice up the tracks to address such an imbalance.
It was the ICC cricket committee, headed by Kumble, which banned the use of saliva while allowing sweat to be used to shine and polish the ball. India's highest Test wicket-taker says preparing bowler-friendly pitches would deal with the issue when cricket resumes in a world affected by Covid-19.
"Looking after bowlers is not just allowing artificial substances. You can leave grass on the surface or even rough it up and have two spinners," he said in a Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) webinar on Wednesday. "Let's get the spinner back in the game; in a Test. We would love to have two spinners in Australia or England, which does not happen often. You (only) see that in the subcontinent."
Imagine R Ashwin bowling in the first 10 overs of the Boxing Day Test at MCG this year end with a slip and short leg alongside chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav; and Australia fielding Nathan Lyon and Adam Zampa. That can happen only if the pacy nature of the pitch is heavily altered.
The saliva ban is a major talking point as plans to resume Test cricket are on in England, as early as next month. The Dukes ball used in England swings more than Australia's Kookaburra and the SG ball in India.
Sri Lanka coach Mickey Arthur has spoken of bowlers telling him in practice that sweat made the ball heavier than saliva. India bowling coach Bharat Arun feels it would be advantage batsmen if sweat can't do what saliva has been doing.
Jasprit Bumrah recently called for an alternative to saliva. Kumble says his committee's resistance to the use of artificial substances on the ball mainly came from cricket's history of penalising such acts. "All these years we've been very strict on what not to use on the ball. Now to go back and relax it we felt is something we should not do. In the recent past, ICC came hard on certain players, and Cricket Australia came out even harder. We did discuss but unanimously agreed we won't take that route," he said.
Kumble's suggestion is to rely on the other variable in cricket— pitch. "The advantage that cricket has over a lot of other sports is adjustable variance in the pitch. You can manage a pitch in such a way that you can manage better balance between bat and ball."
Leaving grass on the wicket to assist pace and bounce is one option. But with the possibility of seam bowlers not being as effective as earlier during a two-innings Test, the former leg-spinner wants teams to be open to playing on spin-friendly surfaces.
The former India captain didn't think white-ball cricket would be affected. "In an ODI or a T20 game, we are not really worried about shining the ball. Sweat can take care of that."