Sir Andy Roberts: Difficult for players to stop applying saliva as it comes naturally

Updated: May 21, 2020, 07:14 IST | Harit N Joshi | Mumbai

West Indies pace great Sir Andy Roberts warns against use of any artificial substance as a substitute for saliva; feels sweat is enough to shine the ball

India pacer Mohammed Shami applies saliva to the ball during the second T20I against NZ at Auckland in January. Pic /AFP
India pacer Mohammed Shami applies saliva to the ball during the second T20I against NZ at Auckland in January. Pic /AFP

Sir Andy Roberts has warned the International Cricket Council (ICC) against allowing any artificial substance to be applied on the ball.

There has been talk about polish, wax or a suitable substance being permitted by cricket's world governing body as a substitute to saliva to induce swing.

The Anil Kumble-headed ICC Cricket Committee on Monday recommended a ban on saliva being applied on the ball as a precaution when the sport resumes after the COVID-19 pandemic curve stabilises.

However, application of sweat will be allowed because it is highly unlikely that the virus can be transmitted through it as per the medical advice received from ICC Medical Advisory Committee head Dr Peter Harcourt.

"It will be difficult for players to stop applying saliva because it comes naturally. However, if perspiration is allowed, it should be fine [to swing the ball]. But I strongly oppose any use of artificial substances on the ball," Roberts told mid-day on Tuesday from Antigua.

Roberts, one of the world's most feared pacers in the mid-1970s, felt the ICC will be encouraging ball tampering by allowing an external substance to be used.

"The ICC is going to tamper with the ball if it allows the use of an external substance. You are bringing back stuff like vaseline. You are making it [ball tampering] legal, which is wrong," said Roberts, 69.

The uncertainty over the game is not lost on the former West Indies pace spearhead. "We don't know how long will the COVID-19 last. It may last some months, a year, or for donkeys years. We just don't know," said Roberts, who claimed 202 wickets in Tests and 87 victims in ODIs.

Andy Roberts
Andy Roberts

Roberts stressed that cricket has always been a batsman's game and the new recommendation, which will be ratified by the ICC Board, will make the game a nightmare for the bowlers. "It was always a batsman's game with most rules in their favour. It's the rules that have reduced the game to a mockery. The game went on to become more and more batsman-friendly. Now, the batsman knows exactly where the ball will be pitched [taking into consideration the field restrictions]. I feel the new restriction [no application of saliva] will make the game a bigger nightmare for bowlers," said Roberts.

Several current pacers like Pat Cummins and Ishant Sharma are already bracing up for the challenge of adjusting to the new normal of not applying saliva when action resumes. When asked how he would have dealt with the situation, Roberts said: "I have long finished playing cricket, so I don't have to worry too much about it. But I don't know, I can't imagine."

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