Time to get working!

Updated: May 10, 2020, 08:19 IST | Ian Chappell | Mumbai

Cricket administrators must use this phase to decide on substitutes for saliva and sweat to be applied on the ball for swing; leg before wicket law needs tweaking too

Ishant Sharma applies saliva to the ball during the Lord's Test against England in 2018. Pic/Getty Images
Ishant Sharma applies saliva to the ball during the Lord's Test against England in 2018. Pic/Getty Images

picThere will be some noticeable changes to the game when cricket resumes from its COVID-19 hiatus with one of the major differences being the way the ball is polished.

It's critical administrators produce the right response to the health challenges as swing bowling, along with wrist-spin, is a crucial part of attacking cricket. Both skills place a high priority on wicket-taking and need to be encouraged at every opportunity.

An out-swing bowler is seeking the edge to provide a catch behind the wicket. The in-swinger is delivered in search of a bowled or an lbw decision. In both cases the bowler, in seeking the perfect ambush, is also providing the batsman with a driving opportunity as the ball needs to be pitched full to achieve the desired outcome.

Either way two results are in play—a wicket or a boundary—which creates the ideal balance of tension and expectation. Fans crave a genuine contest between bat and ball and that's part of what attracts them to the game in the first place.

With ball tampering always a hot topic in the past, I've suggested that administrators ask international captains to construct a list [ie the use of natural substances] detailing the things bowlers feel help them to swing the ball. From this list the administrators should deem one method to be legal with all others being punishable as illegal.

Due to the pandemic, this is the ideal time to conduct the exercise with cricket on hold. Using saliva or perspiration are now seen as a health hazard, so bowlers require something to replace the traditional methods of shining the ball.

An ideal LBW rule

And while they're in a magnanimous mood, the administrators should also make a change to the lbw law that would be welcomed by all bowlers.

The new lbw law would simply say: "Any delivery that strikes the pad without first hitting the bat and, in the umpire's opinion would go on to hit the stumps, is out, regardless of whether or not a shot is attempted."

Forget where the ball pitches and whether it strikes the pad outside the line or not; if it's going to hit the stumps it's out.

There will be screams of horror—particularly from pampered batsmen—but there are numerous positives this change would bring to the game.

Most important is fairness. If a bowler is prepared to attack the stumps regularly, the batsman should only be able to protect his wicket with the bat. The pads are there to save the batsman from injury, not dismissal.

It would also force batsmen to seek an attacking method to combat a wrist-spinner pitching in the rough outside the right-hander's leg stump.

Contrast Sachin Tendulkar's aggressive [and successful] approach to Shane Warne coming round-the-wicket at Chennai in 1998 with a batsman who kicks away deliveries pitching in the rough and turning in toward the stumps. Which would you rather watch?

Bat and pad play

The current law encourages 'pad play' to balls pitching outside leg whilst this change would force them to use their bat. The change would reward bowlers who attack the stumps and decrease the need for negative wide deliveries to a packed off-side field.

The law as it pertains to pitching outside leg was originally introduced to stop negative tactics to slow the scoring. Imagine trying to stifle players like VVS Laxman and Mark Waugh by bowling at their pads. The law should retain the current clause where negative bowling down leg-side is deemed to be illegal.

This change to the lbw law would also simplify umpiring and result in fewer frivolous DRS challenges. Consequently, it would speed up a game that has slowed drastically in recent times. It would also make four-day Tests an even more viable proposition as mind-numbing huge first innings totals would be virtually non-existent.

The priority for cricket administrators should be to maintain an even balance between bat and ball. These law changes would help redress any imbalance and make the game [particularly Test cricket] a far more entertaining spectacle.

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