Former Australia pacer Jason Gillespie feels the biggest challenge that fast bowlers will face due to the saliva ban is to get rid of the old habit of subconsciously licking their fingers while walking back to the bowling mark. The ICC on Tuesday said that it has decided to ban the use of saliva to shine the ball in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I think the biggest issue we are going to see is the habits of cricketers and habits of fast bowlers. A bowler walking back to his mark, subconsciously, might just lick his fingers and apply it to the ball because a bowler has done that since he was a kid. It's just a habit," he said on Fan Play-Sports Ruler 'Inside Out With Baggs' show on Youtube.
"I think that will be the biggest challenge for players...changing those habits that they have got. There are a number of bowlers in the world that actually lick their fingers before they place their hands on the ball at the top of their mark to run in."
Gillespie, who has picked 259 wickets in 71 Tests in his career, said putting the responsibility to maintain the ball on a designated fielder can help overcome the problem. "...having a designated fielder, maybe some at mid-on or mid-off or a slip fielder, they are completely in charge of maintaining the ball. Or the other way, is you just take it out of everyone's hands barring the bowler who is bowling those six balls and he is in charge of maintaining the ball," he said.
"There are going to be some breaches, that's going to happen no doubt about that. Habits are going to play a role here."
The 45-year-old said though things will only get clear when play resumes but the saliva ban will definitely create an opportunity for bowlers to experiment. "I think there are a lot of unknowns! Until we play some cricket and get some feedback from the players, we won't really know. We are basically speculating and guessing. We will have to wait and see," he said.
"It will create opportunities for bowlers to try and do different things. Use the crease a bit more, hold the ball differently, release points, release the ball from a slightly different angle and see if that has an effect when the ball hits the surface.
"It is an opportunity for bowlers to experiment, explore and see what they can do. The very good bowlers will find a way."
Cricketers around the globe have been confined to their homes due to the lockdown but Gillespie said the break will not affect their skills and they will be able to get going quickly. "Players don't lose their skills and we haven't had a lot of time out. It's not like during the war years 3-4 years of cricket (being missed). It's a couple of months. I think the players will get back into the swing of it relatively quickly," he said.
However, Gillespie feels the bowlers will have to put in more work to get back their mojo. "I think batsmen will have plenty of time in the nets, they will have a lot of coaches throwing balls at them. They will be trying to face as many bowlers as they can at training. I don't have an issue with that. I think it's more about the bowlers getting up to speed, getting that work into their body for the rigours of fast bowling, spinners as well getting used to that.
"Batters won't have a problem in terms of the volume of hitting (facing balls). What they may not get is that match practice. Nothing beats time in the middle for batsmen, bowlers and everyone to prepare for cricket."