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Coronavirus may take spit, sweaty towels, handshakes out of sports

AFP-JIJI

As the coronavirus brings the international sports calendar to a grinding halt, there are some long-standing habits which could change forever once competition resumes.

Saliva to take the shine off swing bowling has been a reliable friend to fast bowlers throughout the history of cricket.

But the days of applying saliva to one side of the ball to encourage swing could be over in the aftermath of COVID-19.

"As a bowler I think it would be pretty tough going if we couldn't shine the ball in a test match," said Australia quick Pat Cummins.

"If it's at that stage and we're that worried about the spread, I'm not sure we'd be playing sport."

In tennis, players throwing towels, dripping with sweat and blood and probably a tear or two, at ball boys and girls, has often left fans sympathizing with the youngsters.

Moves by officials to tackle the issue took on greater urgency in March when the coronavirus was taking over around the globe.

Behind closed doors in Miki, Hyogo Prefecture, ball boys and girls on duty at the Davis Cup tie between Japan and Ecuador wore gloves.

Baskets, meanwhile, were made available for players to deposit their towels.

Back in 2018, the ATP introduced towel racks at some events on a trial basis, but not everyone was overjoyed.

"I think having the towel whenever you need it, it's very helpful. It's one thing less that you have to think about," said Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas when he was playing at the NextGen Finals in Milan that year. "I think it's the job of the ball kids to provide towels and balls for the players."

In top soccer leagues around the world, handshakes before matches were abandoned just before the sports shutdown.

Premier League leader Liverpool also banned the use of mascots (children who accompany players onto the field) while Southampton warned against players signing autographs and stopped them from posing for selfies.

The NBA urged its players to opt for the fist bump rather than the long-standing high-five.

"I ain't high-fiving nobody for the rest of my life after this," NBA superstar LeBron James told the "Road Trippin' Podcast."

"No more high-fiving. After this corona (stuff)? Wait 'til you see me and my teammates' handshakes after this (stuff)."

Basketball stars were also told not to take items such as balls or jerseys to autograph.

U.S. women's soccer star Megan Rapinoe, however, says edicts to ban handshakes or even high-fives may be counterproductive anyway.

"We're going to be sweating all over each other all game, so it sort of defeats the purpose of not doing a handshake," she told the New York Times in March.

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