Cricket is often regarded as a Gentleman’s Game. However, in recent times this sport has traversed a few dark patches. Amidst the numerous match-fixing allegations, unnecessary verbal controversies and ball-tampering scandals, cricket has lost its reputation and interest around the globe. From winning the World cup on 29th March 2015 to imposing bans on its cricket captains (often referred to as Australia’s second citizen) on the same day 3 years later, stories have traveled multiple extremes. Here’s a sneak peak at what ball tampering is all about:
Ball Tampering: It’s termed as an external change brought about to the shape or skin of the cricket ball to ensure more movement. The shine of the ball determines its swing and it’s therefore necessary to be apt for it. In greed of such success, players at times resort to aesthetic methods of using sandpaper, shining solutions or scratching methods to increase the lateral movement. Especially when the ball is made to reverse, tampering of seam is commonly tried. Against the spirit of the game, such incidences suffer heavy sanctions and also result to match bans from ICC. Shame for the nation as well as the sport, such evil practices are ought to be eradicated.
- John Lever: Tracing as back as 1970s, on a dry Chinnaswamy pitch in Chennai. The English had a commanding 2-0 hold over the series. John Lever, along with Bob Wilis continued to create a turmoil in the humid conditions. On one hand where the Indian seamers struggled to attain swing, the English bowlers did it with ease.
It was later found out that the bowlers used a Vaseline gel to keep the shine of the ball intact. The gel was explained to be a sweat repellent used by the bowlers but it certainly made a noticeable difference. Though no charges were imposed on the players, this was perhaps the first time when BALL TAMPERING concept actually came into picture. The fact that England’s lead of the attack John Lever could never ever equal his records from that test match, also gives you an impetus to the suspicion. Not much investigated then, England sneaked out of this possible controversy and went out to win the series 3-0.
- Michael Atherton: This was perhaps an incidence where world cricket came to an awareness about the seriousness of ball tampering. In 1994 at Lord’s against South Africa, English captain Michael Atherton was accused of using dirt from his pocket to roughen the surface of the leather. It not only increased the swing but also helped the ball skid through. Atherton however, covered this act as unintentional as he only wanted to use the pitch sand for drying his hands. The explanation pacified the punishment and the English captain was only financially penalized.
Bringing out Ball Tampering into spotlight, ICC had to reframe its rules and guidelines in order to keep such practices in check.
- Waqar Younis: Caught altering the conditions of the ball, legendary Pakistani swing bowler became the first ever in cricketing history to be suspended for ball tampering in 2000. Found guilty and left with no room to cover up, the ban also included a 50% match fee penalty.
- Indians at Ball Tampering (Tendulkar and Dravid): Two Indian legends, and passionate lovers of cricket also faced two separate ball-tampering allegations.
While Dravid was guilty of using a cough lozenge to shine the ball against Zimbabwe in 2004, Sachin was alleged of scratching the seam against SA at Port Elizabeth in 2001. Dravid was fined 50% of match fee for his wrong-doings. Sachin fought hard out of it after he clarified that the attempt was to just remove the dirt off the seam. It took India vigorous off-field discussions and a potential backing out of the tournament for Sachin to get rid of accusations.
The current Indian skipper, Virat Kohli was also accused of ball tampering against England in 2017 but was proved innocent for any punishments.
- Marcus Threscothick: In his Autobiography ’Coming Back To Me’, the English opener empathized on how he used the mint-induced saliva to keep the shine of the ball intact in 2005 Ashes series. “It was my job to keep the shine on the new ball for as long as possible with a bit of spit and a lot of polish. And through trial and error I finally settled on the type of spit for the task at hand.” Threscothick was never caught with evidence on camera and thus eluded all accusations.
- Shahid Afridi: Pakistanis have been quite innovative when it comes to ball tampering. In a series against Australia in 2012, the skipper was caught biting the seam on camera. The act made no significant difference to the result as Australia cherished a convincing win. However Afridi’s evident and obvious crime was sanctioned with a two match ban.
- Faf Du Plessis: Not once, but the South African captain has been caught tampering the ball twice. In 2013, he was found scuffing the ball with his zip in order to make the seam upright. ICC handed him demerit points for this offence and took away 50% of his match fees. He repeated the same a couple of years later where he used his mint to shine the leather. 100% match fees and demerit points were sanctioned for this Level 2 offence.
- Steve Smith and Cameroon Bancroft: Perhaps the most celebrated Ball-Tampering saga of all times, it came into scene when cameraman caught Bancroft using what seemed like a sandpaper for polishing. The controversy grew further when Smith admitted that the conspiracy was planned by the leadership group comprising of him and vice captain David Warner. Revealed later that Warner was the mastermind behind it, ICC banned Smith for a match and took away 75% of Bancroft’s match fees.
A shame for Australian cricket, Cricket Australia had more harsh ideas on store. They banned the two leaders for a year and young Bancroft for 9 months. The incidence also started a rebel in the island nation against such malpractices and the players were criticized from across the globe. Termed as one of the harshest punishments ever, this sanction brought about mixed opinions from cricketing fraternity. It remains to be seen how the ‘lenient ICC’ cope up to such occurrences in future.
With time and technology, cricket has evolved and so have the methods to cheat. Ball Tampering is certainly a black spot on cricketing culture but is it really that big an offence? ICC is set to look into the matter and the required prevention.