Australian cricket ball manufacturer Kookaburra is developing a wax applicator that allows players to shine the ball without using saliva or sweat, minimising the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Players regularly shine one side of the leather-clad ball and scuff up the other to make the ball swing sideways in mid-flight and deceive the batter.
But rubbing spit or sweat into the ball’s surface is expressly forbidden under Australian Institute of Sport guidelines released last week that set out the conditions for the game to resume.
Kookaburra said its wax applicator, while still in “very early stage product development”, could provide a solution.
“At Kookaburra we are committed to continuous improvement and innovation in the game we love,” general manager David Orchard told AFP.
“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic we are always looking for solutions to allow our game to be played safely by all cricketing communities around the world,” he said.
Cricket is suspended around the globe because of the pandemic and the wax applicator would need approval from governing bodies to be used when play resumes.
Kookaburra’s innovation involves using a sponge to apply small amounts of wax to the ball.
Current laws forbid the use of artificial substances to alter the ball but there is a long history of tampering that goes well beyond bowlers spitting on the ball and rubbing it on their clothing.
Test players have been accused of using lozenges, petroleum jelly and resin to shine the ball, and also scuffing it with bottle tops, trouser zippers and grit.
The most notorious recent case was in 2018, when some Australian players attempted to alter the ball with sandpaper during a Test against South Africa in Cape Town, resulting in lengthy bans for those involved.