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Joe Root: Saliva ban could be a good thing for England’s bowlers

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

England Test captain Joe Root believes his bowlers could benefit from not being able to shine the ball with saliva or sweat.

A number of England bowlers returned to individual training this week, but under the ECB’s guidelines, they are not allowed to use saliva or sweat to shine the ball, which would help seamers swing the ball. 

The ICC’s cricket committee has recommended banning the use of saliva to shine the ball when the sport resumes after the coronavirus pandemic, but has permitted the use of sweat on the basis of medical advice suggesting the unlikelihood of coronavirus being transmitted through it.

Root argued that the current rules in place for England’s bowlers could improve their skills, forcing them to be more accurate and work on variations for assistance.

“I think it could actually work in our favour,” Root said on a Sky Sports Watchalong. “It could actually up skill levels for our bowlers in the period, not having assistance that you might normally have. Your accuracy’s got to improve.

“If guys look at it in the right way, when we do get clearance to use sweat or whatever is the final decision, it might actually up skill levels slightly because guys have had to find ways of getting something else out of the surface, whether it’s changing angles on the crease [or] using a wobble-seam ball that they might not have in the locker. It could be something that develops a lot of our bowlers through a four, five-week period.”

Stuart Broad, who returned to training on Thursday, revealed the difficulties of trying to eradicate old habits.

“We’re practising with no sweat [being used to shine the ball] at the minute because we’re not 100 per cent sure how that will end up,” Broad said. “The two sessions I’ve done, it’s quite hard not to want to put some sort of moisture on the ball and shine. We’re having to train ourselves not do it so it becomes a bit of a habit.” 

Broad asked Root whether he thought reverse swing could play a key role when cricket returns, with Root responding: “It all depends on the weather as well. We’ve been blessed with some beautiful weather over the last month or so. If we get some beautiful weather when we get back to playing and the squares are very dry, and the wickets and surfaces are abrasive, then that [reverse swing] comes into it.

“We’ve had summers before where that’s been the case and we’ve had other summers where conventional swing was paramount, so it’ll be interesting to see how it all unravels.”

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