Policing ban on saliva will be hard: India bowling coach Bharat Arun
India bowling coach Bharat Arun speaks about the challenging road back to peak match fitness, and what the ban on saliva use to shine the ball would mean.Updated: May 25, 2020 09:10 IST
It has been two months since India went into lockdown mode. Elite athletes, fit and raring to go, haven’t had such a long break before, and it could particularly impact the bowling unit, with different muscles at play. India bowling coach Bharat Arun speaks about the challenging road back to peak match fitness, and what the ban on saliva use to shine the ball would mean.
For Indian cricketers used to being on the road all the time, how tough has the lockdown been?
It’s a huge challenge. Sportsmen need to be out on the field—running, practicing. This has been an extended break. It being a challenge, is also an opportunity. An international cricketer is never ever going to get this kind of time to work on his fitness. There is dedicated time for fitness. It would hold them in good stead when they are back.
How different is it for bowlers, as opposed to batsmen?
Fitness is the same for batting and bowling. Batsmen have to last, batting long innings, running between the wickets. There is catching and diving involved, so they need to be fit too. But fast bowlers need to be fitter than the rest of the team because it allows you to bowl fast over an extended period. Also, the higher score you have in fitness, the less likely chance of you getting injured.
Is running they miss the most?
Yes, there is no substitute to running on the field. But when you have access to the treadmill, you do have a chance to run.
One has to respect the norms set at the moment. Although it’s not the same as running outdoors, something is better than nothing.
How has the support staff been working with the players?
We have been in touch with the players. Everyone has specific roles. I work more with the bowlers, just to remind them that it could be a blessing in disguise—a chance to work on fitness. The fitter you are, it will definitely strengthen your skills.
You need a different mindset to work now. But these are champion athletes, the best in the country. To be the best in the world, you need to do more than the others. Muhammad Ali said, ‘Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’ Virat is an example, he is one of the fittest cricketers around. The fitter you are, the stronger mindset you have. The trainer and physio are keeping scores of bowlers based on the work they are doing, on a weekly basis. We are well aware of what each one of them is doing.
How long would it take for players to regain peak fitness once the team gets together outdoors?
While they have worked on fitness, they would not have done any skill work. Unless some of them get a chance to practice in their respective cities, when lockdown is lifted partially. We need at least six to eight weeks to get back to peak fitness. Match simulation is also necessary. You need to play as well, maybe first-class cricket.
When you organise a camp, what will it be like?
We will have to plan to work in batches, as per medical norms. We will rotate between physical work and skill work. So, they will all be on site the whole day, but at different times. Not more than four or five at a given point in time. Domestic games can be planned. Playing real matches will help them to return to top gear faster. We were preparing for the T20 World Cup, now we don’t know what its status is. We have T20 action ahead, as well as Test cricket. We may need to summon a mix of all cricketers for the camp.
How do you see the ban on saliva to shine the ball?
All their lives players are used to using saliva. Policing will be difficult. How do you monitor it? Inadvertently you might use saliva. And if somebody chooses to use it, what will you do? One will be monitoring all the eleven players on the field. If somebody chooses to do it discreetly, it becomes difficult.
Consciously avoiding saliva as it could be a health hazard could be a challenge?
It’s going to be difficult for the bowlers to follow. It’s not that it cannot be done. One will have to unlearn habits. When you are working with the players, you can make sure you don’t do it in training. On the field, it’s going to be difficult to monitor. Another point, while I am not a medical expert, I wonder if sweat and saliva are any different. Both are body fluids.
Not using saliva could hurt bowlers in shining the ball. Is sweat enough?
Movement of the ball is the bowlers’ skill. It happens because of the shine on the ball. Saliva is a catalyst which can help you shine the ball. But essentially it is the skill of the bowler. I really don’t know how it will play out. Sweat is not used as much as saliva. The condition of the field and the nature of the wicket also matter. It will be a new experience, one will have to look at the conditions and adapt.
If it is cold, there could be no sweat…
Not just cold climate, if the wicket is rough, what does one do? If the outfield is not that great, what do you do? What if the wicket leaves a sandpaper effect on the ball? But the rule is the same for all. We got to play within the rules. One has to make a conscious effort to start playing without saliva.
Allowing artificial substance in the presence of umpire was considered, but dropped…
The artificial substance would have to be the same everywhere. When one takes the case of Vaseline, its content would be even more difficult to monitor.
Will these rules mean advantage batsmen?
It could be, because we don’t know how the ball is going to behave when you use only sweat. It’s new for everyone, it will depend on conditions. If sweat is not going to be as effective as saliva, it could be advantageous to the batsmen.
How will it play out with the kookaburra ball, in the Australia Tests?
We’ll have to wait and see. The only thing is the wickets and outfield there will be good. But even there, saliva has been used for over a century to shine the ball. It’s an unknown. One will have to see how it behaves and respond.
Is that the big tour India is looking forward to?
We all look forward to it. But for now, we need to focus on what we have to encounter in the first tournament we play in. We can’t look at Australia now. Adapting to conditions will be the key. The last time we adapted well in Australia; we’ll use that experience and challenge ourselves.
Ishant, Hardik and Deepak Chahar are back from injuries…
The long break is for everyone. The positive is it has given them more time to recover from injuries—more time for rehab and physio. They would consider it a blessing in disguise.