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Cricket’s obsession with the ball shines on despite sidelining of saliva | Vic Marks

Covid-19 has caused the ICC to step in but players have tried various means to manipulate the ball and help their bowlers

For the casual observer the discussion about cricket-ball maintenance must seem bizarre given all the other issues surrounding the sport: cricket is faced by potential bankruptcy, the necessity of biosecure stadiums and a debate over whether it is appropriate to play in them. Yet in such uncertain times we seem to be just as concerned about the relative merits and dangers of applying saliva and sweat to a cricket ball.

In other sports no one spends much time contemplating the ball. Tennis players can be seen asking for three of them and then discarding one before serving, but the impression is that this has more to do with superstition than anything else. Footballers are not too bothered about which balls they kick. Admittedly England’s rugby players in the 2011 World Cup faced allegations of “ball-tampering”. Two members of the management team – Jonny Wilkinson’s kicking mentor, Dave Alred, and the fitness specialist, Paul Stridgeon – were suspended after England’s 67-3 victory against Romania when they had been found to have illegally switched balls so that Wilkinson could attempt conversions with his favourite. But this was a freakish occurrence.

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