Accusations of ball-tampering by England aren’t such a scandal as they are being made out to be. The game has left it open to cutting corners, by all teams concerned, says Jaideep Ghosh.
Cricket is a strange game. It has, over the years, succumbed to the pressure of commercialization to such extents that rules being bent to suit the free flow of commerce have made it a little bit of a joke when it comes to discipline and fair play.
The current situation, where for England fast bowler Bob Willis and others have cast aspersions on the England team in the ICC Champions Trophy have been met with indignant protests from the team management. “We don’t tamper,” is the flavour of the protest.
Point is, so what if they do?
Here is a game where the arm is bent to get more purchase and the parent body allows it. The bats stand on the verge of violating the dimension norms, but that adds to the run-gathering. Grounds are of all shapes and sizes, from 60-yard ovals to 93-yard hexagons. You can use DRS, and then, you can do without it. Switch hits, reverse sweeps, everything is on the cards and nothing is sacrosanct.
So why should scratching the cricket ball a little bit be such an issue?
The irony is that it was the same Englishmen who had gone ballistic when Pakistan came up with the dubious art of reverse swing. They were never short of criticism, suspicion and accusations against the Pakistanis, and other teams, mostly the sub-continental sides, since the batsmen weren’t being able to handle the reverse swing, and the bowlers were unable to master the art initially.
So for them to act coy about using a little bit of magic fingers to get the ball to act according to their whims is where the issue is. Otherwise, every team does this.
It seems that the designated ball polishing job is given in the current side to skipper Alastair Cook and Ravi Bopara (not sure if is sub-continental credentials have anything to do with this). Essentially, the job goes to players of lower profiles, or higher credentials of ‘sporting’ behaviour.
Why? Simple. They aren’t under scrutiny of the TV and press cameras that much.
Using lozenge-derived glycerine-enriched saliva to polish the cricket ball isn’t such a rarity either. One of India’s players, renowned for his squeaky-clean reputation and demeanour, always had a toffee in his cheek while playing. But since he was above and beyond reproach, it never became an issue.
Zaheer Khan got incensed during one series in England when some smart alec dropped some jellybeans near his bowling run-up. It wasn’t a joke. The suggestion was pretty direct.
So all those throwing up their hands in horror at the red cherry, or its white cousin, being polished of scratched the ‘wrong’ way need to take a chill pill. Nothing new there. Cricket,after all, isn’t just cricket any more.