It is always made me wonder – why do we see so many cricketers chew gum? Whether it is legends of the game such as Kapil Dev and Viv Richards or modern-day superstars like Ben Stokes and Virat Kohli, most players are known to chew gum on the field. Is this just by coincidence? Or does chewing gum help players perform at their best?
Cricketers Chew Gum mostly to keep themselves calm and relaxed during a tense cricket match. Chewing Gum functions as a psychogenic tool to aid match performance. Gum also provides a small dose of sugar which released gradually gives a marginal boost in energy.
However, chewing gum has a number of other benefits which help cricketers perform to the best of their ability. So, let’s know more about it!
7 Reasons Why Cricketers Chew Gum?
Cricket is a game of fine margins, where the difference between winning and losing can be a matter of millimetres. Whether you are a professional or playing the game for fun we all look for those marginal gains which can boost our performance
1. Chewing Gum Helps Players to Remain Calm and Relaxed
Chewing gum is scientifically proven to help keep players calm under pressure. Whether it is a batsman facing a 150KPH bowler or a fielder waiting for a catch cricket is a game where players need to remain calm and relaxed.
In a recent scientific research done to examine the effects of chewing gum on attention over time, it was observed that gum chewing had an impact on cognition when used over a prolonged period of time.
Australian Batsman Marnus Labuschagne said that chewing gum helped him “relax” when he is batting. Whether you are a club cricketer or an international great remaining calm under pressure is a must for performing at your best.
2. Chewing Gum Helps to Remain Hydrated
Standing in a field all day can be hard work and can lead to dehydration – especially in hot countries such as India, Sri Lanka, and Australia. Thus it is important to remain hydrated while playing in such hot and humid conditions.
While gum itself doesn’t increase the water content in the player’s body, chewing a gum makes a person salivate a lot more than usual. This phenomenon makes you feel thirsty more than usual. As a result of the thirst, a player ends up drinking more water than he or she would otherwise.
Thus, it is perhaps a good option to keep a few gums in your bag when playing cricket in the sub-continent region.
3. Chewing Gum can give Players an Energy Boost
Most chewing gum contains sugar. When a player chews gum, this sugar is released in to the body and gradually it turns to Glucose.
As you may already be aware that Glucose is key to increasing the energy levels of a person. This increased levels of glucose help the players to perform at their best for longer periods of time without feeling exhausted. This is important at all levels of cricket, especially when fielding for long periods.
4. Chewing Gum helps Players Remain Focused
Cricket is often played over a long period of time. It can last anywhere between 3 to 4 hours and 5 days. When doing anything over a long period of time the brain can switch off and you can lose concentration (this is what happens when you daydream).
Chewing gum can prevent this from happening by keeping the mind occupied on an easy task (like chewing!) which prevents players from switching off. This is especially useful if you are batting or fielding for a long time.
5. Chewing Gum helps Batsman get into a Rhythm
West Indian great Viv Richards famously refused to wear a helmet or a gum shield when batting. He said the main reason for not wearing a gum shield was because he needed to chew gum to get into a rhythm.
“It made me sort of look cool, calmed me down, it gave me sort of a rhythm. That was a companion for me at the time. I made sure every time before I walked out there I had chewing gum in my mouth.“Sir Vivian Richards, Former West Indies Cricketer and a Cricket Legend
This rhythm, he said, helped get his feet moving when he was at the beginning of his innings. Viv also said that chewing gum helped him feel cool at the batting crease. If it is good enough for Viv…..who are we to argue?
6. Chewing Gum Increases Reflex Speed
Scientific Research suggests that chewing gum positively affects stress, alertness, cognition, and, in some cases, the simple reaction time of the individual.
As chewing gum helps increase brain activity, the messages are sent to different body parts quicker. This can increase a batsman’s reaction time when facing a quick bowler, or a fielder’s ability to catch the ball when it is coming at them quickly.
In a sport of fine margins, the difference between success and failure can be less than a tenth of a second. Having quicker reaction times is therefore essential for playing the game at the highest level.
7. Cricketers Chew Gum to Imitate the Greats of the Game!
Many greats of the game are known for chewing gum. This has led to a number of younger players copying their icons. Viv Richards and Ricky Ponting were both fearless leaders who were both known for chewing gum.
Given that many people idolise these players it is only natural that people copy what they did whilst playing the game. Given that both these players were seen chewing gum it is no surprise that youngsters and modern-day superstars all try to copy these legends of the game.
Is it Legal to Chew Gum Whilst Playing Cricket?
There is no law currently that prevents a player from chewing gum whilst playing cricket.
However, shining the ball while chewing gum could be seen as applying an ‘artificial substance’ to the ball which is not allowed in the laws of cricket.
Getting caught breaking these laws would lead to a 5 run penalty against the fielding team. South Africa’s Faf Du Plessis in 2016 was fined 100% of his match fee in a test match against Australia for using gum and sweets to artificially alter the condition of the ball.
In addition to Du Plessis, many other players have admitted to using Gum to artificially shine the ball to gain an advantage for the fielding team.
This happens because the sugar in the gum creates glucose which when applied to the ball makes it easier to shine which can lead to it swinging in the air – something which batsman hate and bowlers, such as England’s Jimmy Anderson, love.
What Brand of Gum Do Players Chew?
There is no specific brand of chewing gum which players use in the modern-day. Players such as Ben Stokes may use UK favourite Wigley’s ‘Extra Gum’ whilst Steve Smith may use Australian favourite ‘Orbit’. There are no restrictions on what type of gum a player can chew so it really is down to good old long-lasting flavour.
The most famous brand of chewing gum associated with cricket was India’s ‘Big Fun’. Ahead of the 1987 Cricket World Cup, Big Fun gave away free sports cards that contained playing stats and a picture of famous cricketers who would be playing in the upcoming World Cup.
The most sought-after cards were Kapil Dev, Ravi Shastri and Viv Richards. These cards became an instant collector’s item and are still extremely popular. Another famous Chewing Gum brand, Wrigley’s, became an official Partner of the Big Bash League in Australia.
In cricket, we are all looking for those little things which can improve our performance on the pitch. It would seem that chewing gum is not just for flavour but to help professionals keep calm under pressure, to keep them hydrated in the field and to remain focused on the game.
When the difference between winning and losing is tiny margins, it would seem that chewing gum is an important way to maximise performance.