Cricket ball tampering is not a new thing and can be found at all levels of the game from International to amateur club level.
Cricket Ball Tampering: An Every Day Occurrence
Cricket ball tampering can take various different forms, but the intended purpose is always the same: to gain an advantage over the batting team. Scuffing up the rough side of the ball by “shining” it against a zipper, or scraping the rough side against the pitch while innocently picking the ball up has been part of the game for years. A touch of lip balm has been known to work wonders in keeping the shined side of the ball, well, very shiny. In its latest guise, the designated ball shiner on the field sucks an innocent sweet. When the ball arrives with him, he takes a dab of the sugary saliva and burnishes the ball. A glazed cherry if you will.
Current Examples of Ball Tampering
The current example of cricket ball tampering involves South African captain Faf du Plessis. In the video below (via Youtube) it is clearly evident the Du Plessis has a mint in his mouth and applies generous amounts of sugary saliva to the ball. He has since been found guilty of ball tampering by Match Referee Andy Pycroft. His sanction is to forfeit his match fees for the game and three demerit points on his record.
Another current example is that of Indian captain Virat Kohli. In the example shown below, Kohli is clearly doing exactly the same thing that Du Plessis has just been punished for. This was during the first Test against England at Rajkot.
The obvious sanction for this should mirror Du Plessis’s punishment, but sadly this is not the case. Kohli has not been accused of ball tampering and will not be facing any hearing, simply due to a loophole in the ICC’s disciplinary process. For Kohli to have been sanctioned for the same offence, the case would need to be raised with the Match Referee within five days of the offence. As footage of Kohli’s transgression was not made available within the prescribed five days, it may not be used as the basis of a case against him.
When is Cheating, Cheating?
The ICC have gone to great lengths in the recent past to remove all forms of cheating, betting, spot fixing and the like from the game. All of these examples of unsportsmanlike conduct do not have a “statute of limitations” on them, but evidently ball tampering does. Du Plessis has been labelled as a cheat for his actions. Despite video evidence proving Kohli is guilty of exactly the same offence, he cannot be sanctioned as the five day window has lapsed. This loophole flies in the face of the ICC’s drive to rid the game of all forms of cheating. It does not matter if the ball in question has landed up in the home team’s box of replacement balls and cannot be used as evidence. The video evidence is sufficient to prove wrong doing.
Are all teams guilty of cricket ball tampering?
It would appear that every team has its own way of influencing the condition of a cricket ball. This is what ex-England wicketkeeper/batsman Matt Prior had to say:
— Matt Prior (@MattPrior13) November 20, 2016
If this is the case, the ICC has some serious soul searching to do. Making Du Plessis the international scapegoat for what is done during every cricket Test match is grossly unfair. This is especially relevant when home broadcasters have control over content. It doesn’t matter what sport is involved, it is a rarity that a home player is exposed for an indiscretion, cheating, foul play and the like. It is the visiting team that is generally scrutinized for any wrongdoing.
To his credit, Australian captain Steve Smith admitted that what Du Plessis was found guilty of is actually standard practice the world over:
“Every team around the world shines the cricket ball. I have seen Faf’s comments and I make it very clear we haven’t come out and said anything about Faf or about how he was shining the ball or anything like that. We along with every other team around the world shine the ball the same way.”
Where to From Here?
The ICC needs to act fast and decisively. From a pure credibility point of view, the five day window should be dropped immediately. If the video evidence points to wrong doing, call the player in for a hearing. Even if it is two weeks later. A review of Law 42 (Fair and Unfair Play) would also be in order. The wording is probably clear enough, if a bit simplistic.
Du Plessis was booed onto the field when he walked to the wicket on day one of the day/night Test against Australia in Adelaide. After a superb knock of 118*, he left the field to a standing ovation.