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Brett Lee explains the importance of saliva to maintain bat-ball balance

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Australian bowling legend Brett Lee feels that cricket needs an alternative for saliva following its ban due to the global pandemic. The Australian bowling great advocated the need for an ‘artificial substance’ to maintain the balance between bat and ball.

“It (the ban of using saliva to shine a cricket ball) will definitely change the way the game is played so we don’t want to make it even harder for bowlers than it is currently is,” Lee told the Press Trust of India (PTI).

“Essentially, you do need saliva to keep the new ball shiny and also the old ball to reverse swing. Usually (fast bowlers) use less saliva on a new ball compared to the old one. Maybe they need to come up with some artificial substance that they can use,” he added.

It’s not the first time that Lee had urged the International Cricket Council (ICC) to add a new substance in the immediate absence of saliva due to the pandemic.

"Maybe there are other ways that ICC needs to look in, assisting the bowler maybe in giving them something. Maybe try a new substance that they can potentially use that everyone agrees on, that the batsmen are happy with, that the bowlers are happy with," Lee was previously quoted saying.

Lee’s countryman and an integral member of Australia’s current bowling unit, Mitchell Starc has also echoed the fast bowling great’s sentiment.

"We don't want to lose that or make it less even, so there needs to be something in place to keep that ball swinging. Otherwise, people aren't going to be watching it and kids aren't going to want to be bowlers," Starc had earlier said during an online press conference.

Former left-arm pacer and one of the greatest exponents of reverse swing, Wasim Akram added that the temporary ban on shining the ball with saliva will turn bowlers into nothing more than mere ‘robots’.

"It will make bowlers robots, coming and bowling without swing. It's a quizzical situation for me as I grew up using saliva to shine the ball and to swing it. I am all for precautions in these tough times, so bowlers have to wait for the ball to get old and rough for them to get swing,” Akram said.

Sweat not an alternative for saliva

A common argument put forth as an alternative for Saliva has been sweat. However, Akram feels that sweat alone is unlikely to generate swing.

"Sweat alone was unlikely to generate swing as in some countries it was too cold. Sweat is just something of an add-on, a top-up. Too much use of sweat will leave the cricket ball too wet," Akram said.

Besides sweat, many advocates have suggested making ball tampering legal to maintain balance between bat and ball. Using artificial sweeteners has also been clamped down upon of late, making an already difficult job for bowlers even more challenging.

As Lee mentions, unless an alternative for saliva is found soon, the gap between bat and ball is only set to increase. Which in turn will lead to more lopsided matches in favour of batsmen, making an alternative for saliva in the near future an absolute necessity.

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Greg Wood

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