Venkatesh Prasad, the former India fast bowler, has suggested the use of sweat to maintain shine on the ball than applying saliva. Prasad’s comments come in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has not only cast doubts over the likelihood of resumption of cricket, but also the use age-old spit and shine technique, implemented by bowlers to shine the ball, later useful to generate reverse-swing.

Following the Sandpaper-gate incident scandal which broke out in March of 2018, the ICC has implemented a crackdown on ball tampering, and while using saliva to shine the ball remains pretty much within the protocol of the game, the fact that the COVID-19 has the tendency to spread through respiratory droplets could lead to the practice being banned in some capacity. In such a scenario, Prasad feels it is best to be done with the practice as there is the option of using sweat for the same purpose.

“When the action resumes, they should use only sweat for some time as safety of the players is paramount,” Prasad, told PTI. “When you are in the thick of things, you tend to forget it. You have to get the upper hand over the batsmen as you can’t use anything else besides sweat and saliva.

“The question is what do you do when the batsman is pulping you? You need to swing the ball and what helps swing the ball is the aerodynamics. For everyone’s safety, it should be suspended but if you are getting smashed, you will sub-consciously try to do your best to swing the ball and that might include (using) saliva.”

Former Australia fast bowler Jason Gillespie has expressed his concerns over the practice being stopped once the pandemic is lifted. As have Aussie quicks Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, who rightfully taking away the use of saliva to shine the ball will make life extremely tough for fast bowlers. Prasad, however, thinks differently, believing conditions play an equally crucial role which can at times, limit the use of saliva/sweat on the ball.

“It doesn’t matter if you use saliva or not as long as you apply appropriate amount of sweat and shine it off. If the other side tends to get rough (due to dryness), automatically you get reverse swing,” he explained.

“When I got 6/33 against Pakistan in Chennai (1999), the reverse (swing) happened because of the condition of the ball, pitch and the weather. So, it is not just about saliva. A lot of other factors also come into play.”

Another former India fast bowler Praveen Kumar, regarded as one of India’s finest swing bowlers, reckoned saliva is a source of advantage not only for the fast bowler, but also spinners.

“For the first few months after action resumes, they will have to ban the use of saliva. As bowlers, we will have to look for some other source,” he said. “It is very important for the fast bowlers, also for the spinners, as it helps them generate drift. For an off-spinner, the shiny side on the left will drift the ball away in the air before coming back. It tests the batsman.

In fact, during his career-best Test performance a wicket-wicket haul against England at Lord’s in 2011 saliva played a crucial role. “For me, saliva was of great help while opening the bowling as well as reversing the old ball,” said Kumar.