The coming days are bound to be challenging for pacemen around the world with the ICC banning the use of saliva on the ball owing to COVID-19 concerns.
Former India paceman and noted coach T.A. Sekhar believes it is still possible for the pacemen to be effective.
He said to The Hindu, “The pacemen will have to depend on cross seam. By landing the ball on one side you can get the sphere to roughen up on one side.”
Sekhar added, “Then, if the shiny side hits the surface the ball will tend to skid off the pitch, troubling the batsmen. And if the ball hits the seam, it will tend to pop up.”
Bowling the old-fashioned but still highly effective cutters could be another method to minimise the loss of saliva on the ball.
“Your accuracy and control will determine how effective the cutters are. You can take the leg-cutter away from the right hander, bring the ball back with the off-cutter. If the pitch develops cracks, these cutters can be lethal,” said Sekhar,
Talking about the tour of Australia, which will be the next major Test challenge for India, Sekhar said, “The kookaburra ball, which will be used for the series, does not move around conventionally after the first 20 overs.”
Sekhar explained, “After that, it will be reverse swing and that will be key.”
Providing fascinating insight, Sekhar said pace legend Dennis Lillee once told him, “We used sweat and saliva on one side of the ball to make it heavy. The ball used to swing the other way. We used to call that ‘Irish’ — not reverse swing.”
With saliva out of the picture now, Sekhar said skilful polishing of one side of the ball on trousers, even without saliva, could create the contrast with one side becoming smooth and the other heavier.
And the Kookaburra ball, with its diffused seam, will start reversing from around 30 overs.
One of the best
Sekhar said, “India has one of the best exponents of reverse swing in Mohammed Shami. I expect him to still reverse the ball.
“Then don’t forget, the Australian pitches are hard and the paceman who bends his back will be able to extract bounce. So bounce will always remain a threat with someone like Jasprit Bumrah around.”
Even without saliva, Sekhar sees plenty of room for optimism. “They will have to learn to bowl with a dry ball.”