We look at how habits and techniques related to sports could change amid and after the coronavirus pandemic.

Manchester United and Norwich City players shake hands before a Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester, on January 11, 2020.
Manchester United and Norwich City players shake hands before a Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester, on January 11, 2020. (Reuters Archive)

As the coronavirus brings the international sports calendar to a grinding halt, AFP Sport looks at three long-standing habits that could change forever once competition resumes.

Saliva to encourage swing in cricket bowling

It's been a tried and trusted 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."

Pakistan’s bowler Shaheen Afridi broke multiple records helping his team beat Bangladesh by 94 runs in an ICC World Cup 2019 match at Lord’s.
Pakistan’s bowler Shaheen Afridi broke multiple records helping his team beat Bangladesh by 94 runs in an ICC World Cup 2019 match at Lord’s. (AFP Archive)

Towels in tennis — no touching

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

Moves by officials to tackle the issue took on greater urgency in March when the coronavirus was taking a global grip.

Behind closed doors in Miki, 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.

"I think it's the job of the ball kids to provide towels and balls for the players."

Tennys Sandgren of the US throws his towel back to a ball kid during his match against Switzerland's Roger Federer at  Australian Open in Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia in January 28, 2020.
Tennys Sandgren of the US throws his towel back to a ball kid during his match against Switzerland's Roger Federer at Australian Open in Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia in January 28, 2020. (Reuters Archive)

Let's not shake on it

Pre-match handshakes were abandoned in top football leagues just before the sports shutdown.

Premier League leaders Liverpool also banned the use of mascots while Southampton warned against players signing autographs and stopped them posing for selfies.

Away from football, the NBA urged players to opt for the fist bump rather than the long-standing high-five.

The Chelsea and Manchester United teams do the pre-match handshakes in the 2008 Champions League Final in Moscow, Russia.
The Chelsea and Manchester United teams do the pre-match handshakes in the 2008 Champions League Final in Moscow, Russia. (Reuters Archive)

"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 shit? Wait 'til you see me and my teammates' handshakes after this shit."

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

US women's football star Megan Rapinoe says edicts to ban handshakes or even high-fives may be counter-productive 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.

Source: AFP