Ball tampering: The cloud over Team Australia
Here’s an explainer on the ball tampering row that erupted during the third Test match between Australia and South Africa
What is ball tampering?
It is the act of altering the condition of the match ball in cricket in order to interfere with its aerodynamics and generate help for bowlers. This includes rubbing the surface of the ball with sandpaper (or any other object), scuffing the surface or seam of the ball with fingernails or rubbing the ball on the ground.
What is Australia accused of doing?
On Day 3 of the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town, Cameron Bancroft was caught using sandpaper to alter the condition of the ball. He tried to hide the yellow piece of sandpaper in his trousers when caught on TV. Later, captain Steve Smith admitted it was a planned move.
What do the laws of cricket say?
According to MCC’s Laws of Cricket, article 41, subsection 3, cricketers are allowed to polish the surface of a ball without using any external substance. They can use spit or sweat to glisten the surface. Drying the ball with a towel when it is wet is allowed. If the ball gets muddy, they can clean it under supervision or ask for a change of ball. Everything else is considered tampering with the ball.
How are the laws enforced?
It is the duty of on-field umpires to constantly monitor the state of the match ball. If they find its condition has been altered via an external medium, i.e. tampering, they replace the ball immediately and the opposition is awarded five penalty runs. Thereafter, the incident comes under the purview of the match referee and the ICC.
What is the punishment for ball tampering?
According to ICC’s Code of Conduct, the player guilty of ball tampering is fined 50-100% of his match fees and awarded a minimum of two demerit points (accumulation of eight demerit points leads to a match ban). Bancroft was awarded three demerit points and fined 75% of match fees. Smith was fined 100% of match fees and suspended for one Test. Cricket Australia has further opened a probe into the matter, with Smith and vice-captain David Warner stepping down. Coach Darren Lehmann’s job is also under threat.
Why do bowlers need to work on the ball?
Working on the ball is almost an art form in modern-day cricket and it is a necessary practice to help generate reverse swing. Every team designates one or two fielders to continuously (and legally) work on the ball, irrespective of format. Common practice is to use spit or sweat to polish and smoothen one half of the ball to aid in reverse swing.
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