Banning use of saliva on the ball may make cricket boring, says Starc

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26 May 2020 | 12:52 PM
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Cricket.com Staff

Banning use of saliva on the ball may make cricket boring, says Starc

In an online video conference, Starc spoke about ICC’s proposed change in rule, the prospect of playing a pink-ball Test against India later on this year, his preparation for the T20 World Cup at home and a variety of other topics

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Mitchell Starc has warned that cricket runs the risk of becoming “pretty boring” if ICC go ahead with their plan of banning the use of saliva on the ball. 

The impact of coronavirus has forced the ICC to think about how the bowlers shine the ball and they are considering banning saliva as a measure, something that has not gone down well with a lot of bowlers. 

In an online video conference organized by Cricket Australia, Starc spoke in detail regarding ICC’s proposed change in rule, the prospect of playing a pink-ball Test against India later on this year, his preparation for the T20 World Cup at home and a variety of other topics.

Excerpts:

If they change the eligibility for IPL, would you have any interest in playing it, if it goes into that World Cup window?

There are a few hurdles for me to get into this. I wasn't in the auction, so I don't know what the story is, but I guess I'd consider it, will think about it. Obviously it will be right at the start of our domestic season. There will be a fair bit to consider but I don't currently have a contract so I don't have to worry about it.  

Have you watched ‘the Test’ on Amazon Prime and what you thought of it?

Haven't watched it, no! I was there first-hand so I am sure I'll come around to watching it. I have seen an episode that they gave us before the release, as to see what it was going to be like and I think it looks fantastic. From all the people that have mentioned to me that they've watched it, whether I've spoken to them on the golf course or anything like that, a lot of them have loved it.  From all the reports, it is great and from the one episode I saw, it has been put together fantastically. I am sure I'll come around to watching it eventually, but I was there for most of the 12 months, so I am pretty aware of what happened. 

If you can cast your mind back to your time with Yorkshire is there anything that stands out that you learned during your time in County Cricket? 

It was the first trip that I had to the UK, so I guess the whole learning of playing with a Dukes ball, English conditions...I loved my time there. I would have loved to play a lot more Championship cricket at that time. I guess there was a bit of travel complication there that cost me a couple of games but for the most part it was all white-ball so I played a lot of T20 cricket there, a fair bit of one-day cricket and only a couple of Championship games. I got to play in a team with a lot of young guys that have played for England. I played with Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Gary Ballance, Phil Jacques was there with me as well, Jason Gillespie was the coach. I had a lot of good people around me, a lot to learn from. Ryan Sidebottom was there, who was another left-arm bowler and his career was a long and successful one as well. I thoroughly enjoyed my time, it was eight years ago but I think that was my first introduction to English conditions and cricket in England which is what I was after to try and have those learnings and hopefully after that play a little cricket for Australia.

Would you go back? Is there unfinished business in County cricket for you?

I have had numerous offers over the years, but obviously the schedule is the main one there. Players that play all three formats find it extremely difficult to find those windows to play, particularly County cricket when I guess the Australian team are either in England playing, or in another country playing cricket in our winter, so that's probably the biggest hurdle there. I wouldn't say no to going back, I was meant to play for Wales in the Hundred this year, so there was a window to go and play in the UK. 

Would you have any issue with some of your national team-mates playing in the IPL instead of playing early stages of the domestic season back here assuming they can come back and play some Shield cricket before the Test summer? 

Would I have an issue with it? I don't think so, I guess there is a pre-existing contract. There are lots of things that would have to go into that I assume, none of which I have to decide on. I guess Cricket Australia would have to clear those guys, so if they agree to go then I don't see a problem in it. They are pre-existing contracts. They would have been playing anyway, so obviously hurdle of domestic cricket there and...it will be an interesting decision. It's not one I have to make, so let those guys make their own decisions.

What about the prospect of playing a pink-ball Test against India this summer?

I am definitely for it. I guess I have not been completely against it. I don't think it shouldn't exist, I just think they shouldn't get too far ahead of themselves and all of a sudden have a pink ball summer. That is something I will be heavily against. I think a pink-ball Test in the series against India is a great thing. I think the fans love it, it creates a different aspect of the contest. I think bat and ball are a lot closer together in that contest together as well. India, obviously have played a pink-ball game in India so they are not completely foreign to it. In terms of the advantage that you mentioned, we do have a good record at home with the pink ball. That might come into your home-ground advantage and it is no different to us going to India and they've got the advantage there. From the little bits that I have seen or heard, India are very much open to that as well so that is fantastic. More so it's great for fans of cricket as well.

Thoughts on you not having played a lot of league (franchise) cricket over the last few years

The money is a big aspect of it. It’s hard enough juggling one cricket schedule with three formats. My wife plays cricket on a completely different schedule as well. That’s something I take into consideration – being able to spend time together. In the instance of the IPL, that’s a Cricket Australia leave period. Trust to have that time together, which we have done for the last eight weeks. I wouldn’t give that back for a contract at all. It’s not something I’ve shut the door on. I’m still hoping to play in T20 leagues and obviously the IPL, BBL is one I haven’t played in much as well. I’ve put on a sight to spend a couple of extra weeks at home. So, it’s not just the IPL or the others, it’s the ones on Australia as well. So, there’s a lot that I can consider in making those decisions. That’s not to say that I won’t play this year, next year or any other year. I’ll take it as it comes with the schedule that I play, how my body is going. A large portion of that is how little I’ve seen my wife and family as well.

On how the tweaked action got you success

I made that little tweak coming back from the UK, heading into the summer just gone. I thought it was a bit of the timing thing that helped me get in a position where I felt a lot less can go wrong. I felt that the straight lines were a lot better, probably helped me get a bit of my swing back as well, felt a bit more comfortable in my repetitive action. That’s something that I fiddled with the idea and also worked with Andre Adams and New South Wales and obviously worked with Troy Cooley and Andrew McDonald. Still working on that to make it more and more natural, the more I do it. It’s something that I’ll pay a lot of attention to when I start bowling again.

Worried about IPL not going ahead given that it contributes financially so much to cricket around the world?

Can’t say I’ve thought about it. All I’ve heard is that it potentially could be played in that window if the World Cup was to be postponed, which was mentioned earlier. It’s a big part of cricket these days – franchise T20 cricket, there’s guys who make a lot of money out of it, it’s a big part of their living. I don’t have the complete answer for you. In terms of my outlook on it, I’m about to start training for New South Wales and that’s where I’ll be at this stage playing some domestic cricket. The guys head off in a few weeks to play IPL, they’re contracted to do that. If it falls in that window, they’ll probably have to get some NOC signed by CA to let them go. There’s some hurdles for those guys to get past and if it goes ahead, good luck to them.

How realistically are you preparing for the T20 World Cup?

I have no idea what the discussions have been like. We came off leave a week ago. Not sure what the discussions have been. Our preparations in terms of that is we have a medical with New South Wales tomorrow and then I start pre-season. There’s not been any discussions with the players or the team. I guess it’s probably been with the CA staff and the ICC. I’m not sure where it stands at the minute. It’s obviously going to be quite difficult to fly 15 teams into Australia, when there is quarantine rules still in place and rest of it, playing at different grounds around the country. So, there’s a huge number of hurdles. Bigger things going around at the moment is the health of people around the world. The powers at play will determine the World Cup, I assume.

On the new ICC rules regarding ball shining 

I guess you use both those things (sweat and saliva) to shine the ball. I’m going to bend a bit more on the sweat side just try not to get my hands in my mouth too much. I completely agree with what Pat (Cummins) commented on last week in terms of that contest between bat and ball. We don’t want to lose that or get further away from that even contest. So, there needs to be something in place to keep that ball swinging. They mentioned the other day that it's only going to be there for a period of time and then once the world gets back to a relatively normal situation then saliva can come back into shining the ball. If there's going to be a window of time, whether they instruct people to leave more grass on the wickets to have that contests. If they're going to take away a portion of maintaining the ball, there needs to be that even contest between bat and ball, otherwise people are going to stop watching and kids aren’t going to want to be bowlers because as we saw in Australia over the last couple of years, there were some pretty flat wickets and if that ball’s going straight, it’s a pretty boring contest. There needs to something in it to keep that as even a contest as possible between bat and ball. I think Kookaburra have been developing a shining wax of that sort. So, whether there’s some consideration on that, there needs something to maintain an even contest.   

Are you fine with using wax over saliva or sweat?

I understand that completely and I agree with what they are saying in terms of foreign substance. Whether that can be controlled by the umpires in terms of whether they have a portion of the wax and you can only use a small amount of that needs to be for maintaining of an even contest. I know what you’re saying with the foreign substances and it is a grey area – in fact black and white in terms of that. It is an unusual time for the world. If they’re going to remove saliva shining for a portion of time, then they need to do something for that portion of time as well. Whether be the wickets being not as flat or having at least considering the shining wax to a degree, there needs to be some thought in that I think.

Do you have any concerns about the risk of injury post-Covid return?

We haven't had those discussions as yet. I think it's probably like most players we understand that obviously with series being postponed or cancelled, there's going to be a backlog of series that teams are going to want to play. Once cricket does start up again, it's going to be pretty busy, as you say. It probably extends more to those players who play all three formats and whether there's overlap between series, which there has been in the past. It's a good question, it's one we're not sure about at the minute, obviously with no definite return date to some international cricket yet for us, our thinking at the minute is back to pre-season and getting ourselves ready as best we can and as quick as we can to when we do start playing international cricket again, we're all ready to go.

Having been back at work for a week has JL (Justin Langer) had any gems of wisdom for everyone?

We actually have a Zoom squad meeting tomorrow. So he may have then, but it’s all been as he's for the last eight weeks, including his first week back. So we're still all training from home. Well, certainly the New South Wales guys are, I think, also South Australia were back at it the other day. But those of us in Sydney, we all got our medicals and testing tomorrow and then we're back with the New South Wales Blues on the 1st.

What do you think on the need for more spin-friendly wickets in domestic cricket? Do you think that there should be pitches being a bit more friendly for spinners?

Generally, spinners reckon that the wickets that swing a bit also spin, so maybe if you bring the bowlers back into the game, you tick all the boxes. But yeah, certainly the games that I played last season they were extremely slow and pretty flat wickets. So I guess that's probably been a little bit of the normal wickets around Australia in the recent years. As I mentioned before, it's trying to maintain as best we can, that even contest between bat-ball. I think it'd be great to see bowlers come back into the contest a bit more. It's like you say, whether it is the turning wickets the SCG used to have, great characteristic so that used to be pretty flat early on and break up and spinners loved it. And if you asked Nathan Lyon, he probably loved it this year as well. I think that was the beauty of it a few years ago. They used to have different wickets around Australia that had very different characteristics, whether it be the Gabba and the WACA that the fast bowlers loved, you had the SCG which the spinners loved, you had Adelaide that the batters loved. Now they've obviously changed a fair bit, with drop-ins and day-night cricket and the rest. But as I said before, it comes down to that contest between bat and ball and ideally, you want that as even as possible. 

There have been some pretty big cuts to state cricket associations. Do you think that might affect grassroots cricket in the game as a whole?

Can't say I've read too much about it. As far as I know, I guess in terms of New South Wales, they've been pretty strong in holding their position. And I think that from the little updates that I've read from New South Wales, it's a big part of their plan and that there to be part of growing the game and definitely the state so they've been having to push back. I guess, on the cuts. That's where we will come from as international cricket is. So it's a huge part of the game in Australia and I can't say what's happening around the country in terms of the cuts, I don't know the specifics around it. I've only read a little bit about how New South Wales is going about it. Full credit to the New South Wales board in trying to at this stage, hanging on to all of the staff and the grassroots at the moment.

How do you think Cricket Australia's handled this situation, given it went early announcing these cuts? Some of the other states have made pretty big cuts to their staff members, and that's affected grassroots.

Yeah, I don't know the details of a lot of it. The ACA has been a fantastic part of the player dealings with in all the indifferent times of the last eight, nine weeks, in terms of all the cuts and the pays and the rest of it. So they've been fantastic. And again, I don't know the specific details and numbers of the different states. And I'd say I only know what probably what you guys have read as well. Cricket hasn't lost any games in these countries. So we see Bangladesh has been postponed. But there's been no cricket lost yet. So it's going to be an interesting few weeks with state contracting and then us also we're returning to training too.

How critical would that be in Indian conditions? Do you believe it's particularly for fast bowlers? 

Maybe not so important with that SG ball, in India. I think we've seen it swing for only two overs with those quite dry and abrasive wickets. Spin is one that comes into it. Obviously you sweat a fair bit over there. So you can use sweat, but you're trying to keep almost ball-dry most of the time. So yeah, look, I don't think it probably doesn't affect a whole lot in those conditions, I think it's probably a little more in certainly in Australia where you're trying to look after that red Kookaburra and keep it in good condition. Likewise, with the Dukes ball in the UK, you are trying to maintain that swing. Swing is not a big one in India. You probably see a lot of reverse swing, but that's pretty more trying to keep the ball dry. I think in Indian conditions, it probably doesn't play a huge part or certainly not as big a part as in Australia or the UK.

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Patrick James CumminsMitchell Aaron StarcAustraliaIndia

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