Major ball-tampering incidents in recent cricket history
Ball-tampering is as old as the game of cricket itself and here’s a list of such cases involving high-profile cricketers in recent times
Islamabad: The international backlash following Australia captain Steve Smith’s confession to cheating during the third test against South Africa last weekend defies the fact that ball-tampering is about as old as the game of cricket itself.
The difference this time is that Australian players have been caught out, and that has shamed the fans who revered their national team and believed it to be above even the need to cheat.
There’s been all kinds of methods used to try and make one side of the leather ball rougher—which assists the bowlers with extra swing—and the players charged in the past include some of the stars of the game.
Here’s a list of some of the higher-profile ball-tampering cases in the modern game:
Chris Pringle, New Zealand, 1990
The gentle medium pacer got away without any punishment despite admitting to ball tampering not long after making his test debut against Pakistan at Karachi.
Television technology was nowhere near as high-tech as it is now, when every action of a player on the field can be closely monitored. And the on-field umpires were the sole adjudicators of test matches before the International Cricket Council started appointing match referees.
He took a career-best 11 wickets for 152 runs in the third test at Faisalabad’ on a batting friendly wicket, later revealing he’d used a bottle top to scratch the ball. He said he’d tampered with the ball because he believed Pakistani bowlers were also doing it. The late Martin Crowe acknowledged later that while he’d been ready to accept that Pakistan was a better team, “we were not going to accept what they were doing with the ball.”
Michael Atherton, England, 1994
The “dirt in the pocket” incident happened when the England captain took dirt off the pitch, put it in his pocket and was caught on camera using it on the ball.
Atherton was not fined or reprimanded by the ICC match referee Peter Burge, but the England Cricket Board took the sterner step of imposing a fine on Atherton.
It was one of the darker episodes in his career. But Atherton, working this month as an analyst during England’s two-test tour to New Zealand, has sympathized with the current Australia captain, describing calls for Smith to be banned for life as “ridiculous.”
Waqar Younis, Pakistan, 2000
Eight years after being first accused of ball tampering by the British media during a series against England, Pakistan fast bowler Waqar Younis became the first cricketer to be fined and suspended for the offense. New Zealand match referee John Reid fined Waqar, who was renowned for his prodigious swing, 50% of his match fee after finding him guilty of ball tampering in a limited-overs international against South Africa in Sri Lanka. Pakistan skipper captain Moin Khan and all-rounder Azhar Mehmood were handed 30% fines during the Singer Cup one-day match.
Reid reviewed TV footage, which showed Waqar apparently using his fingernails to scratch one side of the ball.
Waqar had avoided punishment after Reid had warned him for ball tampering during a test match against Sri Lanka earlier in the tournament. Waqar and team officials successfully argued on that occasion that the bowler was attempting to clean debris from the ball.
Sachin Tendulkar, India, 2001
Match referee Mike Denness was in the international cricket hot seat when he penalized five Indian players for excessive appealing and sanctioned Tendulkar for ball tampering during the second test against South Africa at Port Elizabeth. TV cameras showed Tendulkar cleaning the seam of the ball but, because he hadn’t notified umpires he was doing it, it fell under the regulations for altering the condition of the ball. The charge quickly became contentious, with serious backlash in India, where Tendulkar remains to this day an undisputed legend of the game. The ICC, after thoroughly investigating the matter, revoked the suspended one-game ban on Tendulkar.
Shoaib Akhtar, Pakistan, 2003
Fiery fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar was banned for two one-day internationals for scratching the surface of the ball during a game against New Zealand in Sri Lanka.
Later in his book “Controversially Yours,” Akhtar admitted that he was desperate and “began fussing with the ball” because it was hot and humid in Dambulla and the wicket was very slow.
Akhtar also said he knew it was against the rules and not something to be proud of. He also admitted he had tampered with the ball on many occasions during his playing days. “I can’t seem to help it. I have got to do something with the ball. I know this will make a big noise, but I won’t lie about it.”
Rahul Dravid, India, 2004
Rahul Dravid, who was nicknamed “The Wall” because of his unyielding approach to batting, was caught on camera applying lozenge on the ball while playing Zimbabwe in a one-day international in Australia. Match referee Clive Lloyd said that TV footage showed enough that the Indian captain intentionally applied the lozenge to the ball and was in breach of the code of conduct. He was found guilty and fined 50% of his match fee.
Pakistan team, 2006
In one of the most controversial episodes, the Pakistan team refused to play after being penalized for ball tampering during a test match against England at The Oval. Umpires Darrel Hair and Billy Doctrove awarded the test match to England. The controversy started when both umpires discussed the condition of the ball, changed it and awarded five penalty runs to England. Play continued without any protest from Pakistan until the tea break.
During the interval, though, Pakistan players discussed the penalty and believed they hadn’t tampered with the ball. They refused to take the field and after umpires waited in the middle for 15 minutes, the result was awarded in England’s favour. By the time Pakistan players agreed to return to the field, umpires told them the match was over. Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq said umpire Hair didn’t give him details of the alleged tampering. It was for the first time in the history of so-called gentleman’s game that a test match was decided in this manner.
Stuart Broad, England, 2010
The England fast bowler faced accusations of ball tampering when he appeared to step on the ball with the spikes of his boot during a test match against South Africa at Cape Town. Broad stopped a rolling ball with his foot before he stood on it. He argued that he was a bit lazy because of the extreme heat and denied tampering with the ball.
No formal charges were laid despite complaints from the South Africans. Former England captain Nasser Hussain said that he had no doubt the fast bowler was wrong and “if a player from another country did the same, we’d have said they were cheating.”
Shahid Afridi, Pakistan, 2010
Afridi was banned for two one-day internationals after appearing to bite the ball twice during his team’s two-wicket loss against Australia in Perth. A TV umpire informed the on-field umpires, who discussed the matter with Afridi and the ball was changed. Afridi was summoned by match referee Ranjan Madugalle after the match, pleaded guilty to the charge, apologized and said he regretted the incident. Afridi later said there’s no team in the world which doesn’t tamper with the ball, but “my methods were wrong, I am embarrassed, I shouldn’t have done it. I just wanted to win us a game but this was the wrong way to do it.”
Faf du Plessis, South Africa, 2016
The South Africa captain was fined 100% of his match and also given three demerit points for ball tampering during the second test against Australia. Television footage showed du Plessis sucking on candy, sticking fingers into his mouth and then using his saliva to shine the ball. He had fined previously in 2013 for scuffing the ball on the zip of his trousers in a match Pakistan.
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