‘Everybody does it’

Harsha makes two points in his latest column — one, that Shahid Afridi could be the one day captain Pakistan needs, and two, that maybe it is time to look at making ball tampering official.

The captaincy debate comes just when Mohammad Yousuf, the incumbent, gaffed his mouth with his foot:

“I didn’t do badly as captain, not as badly that I should resign or quit. I accepted captaincy when no one was willing to take captaincy for the tours. I took it [captaincy] only because of the country and will continue for the country in future.”

That statement is disingenuous at so many levels. For starters, when he says he didn’t do as badly as he could have, after being whitewashed in both Tests and ODIs, it kind of begs the question: how worse do you suppose the defeat had to be before you felt a sense of personal responsibility?

As to the second part of his statement, that he took it because “no one else was willing to”, he forgets to point out that his predecessor Younis Khan quit because senior players made his life miserable — and one of the major culprits was Yousuf himself.

The biggest argument against Yousuf’s continued tenure, though, is that he is totally lacking in inspiration on the field — and though I didn’t watch the Australia-Pakistan series start to finish, the sense I got from the parts I did see was that he is not the kind who is likely to grow into the job.

So there needs to be a change — and given the fractious nature of the team, different captains for Tests and ODIs seem to make sense, with Afridi the obvious choice for leading the one day side thanks to his ability to galvanize his mates [it is no coincidence that the one game where Pakistan and Australia were on level terms is the one Afridi led in].

But from that to endorsing ball-tampering seems a bit of a stretch — particularly when it comes from the voice of moderation that is Harsha.

But at least one good has come out of it. We now have a nice debate on the whole issue of ball-tampering. Predictably bowlers, who have always played the role of the exploited, sometimes with good reason, are all in favour of fiddling a bit with the ball. Batsmen (and at least one wicketkeeper) are up in arms. The law doesn’t allow it but maybe the time has come to question whether the law is indeed just. Cricket allows you to “maintain” the state of the ball but not to “alter” it. You can therefore rub the ball on your flannels to ensure the shine stays longer, but you cannot rub it on the ground, for example, to ensure it goes faster. But in either case you are altering the natural condition of the ball.

By maintaining the shine a bowler prevents the ball from deterioration. And yet the worsening of the ball, and the ensuing implications, are at the very heart of our game. Either action seeks to make the two halves of the ball unequal, so why should one be allowed and the other outlawed? Is it because one helps conventional swing and the other encourages reverse swing, which has always been looked upon as the naughty child in the family? Or, let’s face it, is it because batsmen don’t like reverse swing?

Cricket is no stranger to ways of making the shine go off the ball faster. Remember when Sunil Gavaskar used to “open” the bowling? The wicket keeper would collect and roll it to fine leg, who would roll it to mid off, who “passed it” to third man and so on. An over of that, and the ball would be just right for Bishen Bedi to bowl over number three. And even now, bowlers do more than rubbing the ball to ensure that the shine stays longer — in the areas they polish and the ones they don’t lies the secret of preparing the ball for reverse swing, and no one has a problem with that. [It is not, for instance, as if the law says any polishing done should be even].

But to go from there to the extreme, and to suggest maybe that it is okay to snack on the ball between deliveries [what next, if I am a bowler with weak teeth, can I bring my knife and fork to the party?] is more than I personally would want to see — because if you open that particular door, there is no telling where it will end. If it is okay for instance to use your nails to raise the seam, why then is it not okay to use a bottle cap? If teeth are acceptable, why not a knife?

“Everybody does it” is, first up, false — a more accurate statement would be, “some people do it”. And the fact that some people do something does not, in and of itself, make that the right thing to do. Hey, some people do dope — so would we argue the case to make doping, recreational or performance-oriented, legal?


30 thoughts on “‘Everybody does it’

  1. It is quite surprising to hear this from Harsha. I just couldn’t believe it when I read this last night.

    Analogies apart, this main reason to not do this is the slippery slope that it is. I realy like the way the rule is structured. You can try to maintain the state but not change the state. It is a very clear distinction. There is no need to make a list of tiny actions that are permitted and those that are not.

    What does it mean to legalize changing the state of the ball. First of you’ll have to list all the tools you can use (weak) teeth, sand, nails etc? Can you perhaps change the shape?

    As soon as you have to answer so many ugly questions, you know there is something wrong.


  2. On the contrary I would look at this as probably Harsha knows something more than what we all know. Maybe there is a reason why so many folks are talking about “legalizing” ball tampering.

    Maybe Harsha did not want to sit in a glasshouse and sound so upright!

  3. Now , Ramiz Raja is advocating ball tempering. When I read the title on cricinfo, my first reaction was- Look who is talking. He tries so hard to explain reverse swing as an act of magic, which in my opinion it absolutely is, and then spoils the mood by advocating ball tempering. It was like making Hulk marry Kate Winslet. It is like desecrating my memories of Wasim and Waqar- my all-time favourite bowlers. It is foul.

    • “we are only doing what everybody should be doing. it is not our fault, circumstances forced us to do it”
      Doesnt this logic sound familiar??

  4. Sorry for going off topic Prem, but a word from you on Shaun Tait, if you please. He clocked 160.7 today and was a major factor in Aus win. Instead of legaising ball tempering, I think we should instead develop kids to bowl fast, if they can. A genuine fast bowler might leak runs, but he can trouble a batsman irrespective of the condition of the pitch or the ball. Kemar Roach did that to Ponting earlier and now Tait.

  5. Prem, I am actually all for making doping legal; after all it is a victimless crime. So, bad analogy, but I do get the point you are making. That said, if we are going to roll out flat pitches in favour of batsmen, maybe ball tampering will even it out in favour of bowlers. After all, a thrilling spell of bowling is far better to watch than a thrilling session of batting.

            • i do not want to go off-topic, but I have to say this:

              there are two classes of people who ask for dope legalization. One class is those fake liberals who want only Marijuana to be legalized. My answer to them is: boss, you are not talking about dope legalization, you are just arguing about what a dope is what is not.

              Now, the second class is those who want everything to be legalized- including heroine, cocaine, brown sugar and i dont know what else. Now, that is real dope legalization. Now, if somebody is telling me that using these things are just victimless crime, i just want to make a statement – that you are being blind to the facts. I do not have any plan to list out the facts. Because those who are willing to take a look at the facts the way it is, would not have missed them. Any number of listing would not mend their minds.

              Now, just a thought on pr3m’s idea that legalizing dope will eliminate illegal money. Do you seriously think that Dawood Ibrahim will stop anti-social activities if drugs are legalized? Or those bloody south american drug lords? You should be kidding me. I hope that you have not missed out on the recent killing in mexico due to “drug consumption”, which is different from “drug marketing”.

  6. Another related note: all the Paki ex-players and current players are saying “everybody does it”. Ok. Heres my conclusion- isn’t it possible that ball-tampering has been persistent ONLY in the Pak team? After all, nobody else is saying “everybody does it” (may be guys like Prabhakar does it- but he is a proven cheat anyways).

  7. look, like bats have regulations, let ball tampering also have regulations. nothing off the body can be used. so no rubbing the ball on the grass, no bottle caps, no knives. just nails, teeth, etc.

    also, just changing the LBW rules won’t make it fairer, since the bats are bigger, grounds are smaller, pitches are made of cement.
    no doubt changing (scrapping) the bouncer rule only makes sense, but if i can’t tell u what to do with your bat (with certain limitations), then don’t bother telling me what i can do with the ball, under certain conditions.

    also, i’ll vote for the govt. that legalizes “medical marijuana” 😛

    • also, with mandatory ball changes, reverse swing is gonna be a forgotten art, with so few tests being played at all…

  8. It was the first instance when after reading a Harsha column, I felt “WTF”.

    In the quest of defending “poor and hapless” bowlers, Harsha forgets a point- it is totally one thing to “maintain” a ball. It is totally different to “destroy” it. Tampering is an act of destroying. I hope he does not consider both the concepts the same when it comes to his house too.

    I am pretty amused with the outcome of ball-tampering being legal. Fielders will have their teeth covered by silver/steel moulding. “Shaping-the-ball” will become an art. Buchanan will have a presentation on his laptop on how to “eat a ball” artistically. Substitutes will come out every once in a while with their pockets full of articles from the Butcher’s.

    Now, supposing that ball-tampering is made legal only with “natural” substances that you can find in the field and the players- it will be more amusing. All the players will be scanned through X-ray machines everytime they come in and go out. Sniffer dogs will patrol the field to ensure that no “unnatural” substance is found in the field. And, oh boy, forget about throwing water bottles.

  9. absolute nonsense from harsha. looks like everyone from the media goes out of their way to please the pakis. it is ok harsha, they are not going to launch a nuclear bomb if you write that afridi is a cheat.

  10. Yeah Prem, its the thin edge of the wedge. It will go in the way of the degree of chucking. BTW, OT, but whats wrong in legalising dope?!

  11. Was a huge surprise reading that under the signature of Harsha. By that logic everything from aluminium bats to carbon graphite sheets will be logical. Hansie Cronje might argue that it is okay to use microphone on ground if somebody like Javed Miandad can yell instructions anyway to his charges from the sidelines. Also, I dont get the point when he says that rubbing the ball on the flannels helps only conventional swing. I think to get it to reverse, you have to keep one side shiny as well.
    Yes, there has been an unbalance between bat and bowl in recent times, but two wrongs do not make a right.

    • Yeah, I too was somewhat startled by that argument. 🙂 As to the other points, just added my thoughts to Sri’s comment below.

      • My first question is What was Harsha on when he wrote this column? IMHO Harsha has stooped too low for his usual standards – is it because he has too much on his plate? Or is it his contract with Cricinfo says n articles per x weeks. This is a shocking piece. His logic for legalising ball tampering is so loose you can hit it for a six. And then calling for Shahid Afridi to be the capatin for Pak is the pits. He has completely lost the plot especially when he wrote this after the “biting apple” incident. Afridi should have been banned for life with all the earlier offences taken into account. He is unfit to be playing at international level with that attitude leave alone being a captain. i hope Harsha comes up with the usual ploy used by politicians “I was quoted out of context” Unfortunatlet this piece has his signature at the bottom.

  12. While I personally think that bowlers need to have an edge in what is slowly becoming a batsman’s game, I totally disagree with this theory of ball tampering. Maybe something like 2 or three bouncers an over and challenge the batsman or maybe something like that.

    That being said, Afridi is guilty as hell. All the guy has is flamboyance and no genuine skill to be considered a good player and to think he copped a sentence for two games is stupid.


    • If you want to give the bowlers an edge, equipping them with bottle caps is IMHO not the way to go.

      Remove, for instance, the idiotic rules surrounding LBWs — earlier there was just “pitched outside line of leg stump” — which itself was coddling to an extreme. Now you have “hit outside line of off”, permitting the batsman to stick his toe outside the line, from that point on even if he is hit plumb center the umpire says no.

      IMHO, that is daft. It is not about where you are struck, but where the ball is heading. Reframe the rules, and the bowler has more of a chance. Similarly, like you said, redraft the bouncer rule. Look at changing the LBW rule to the back foot. Over the years, a lot of rules have been changed or added, all designed to make life tough for the bowlers; walk those rules back and you will have an even contest, without cheating coming into it.

      The other way, the minute you say cheating is legal, the batsmen will start doing it too — springloaded handles, graphite insets, whatever. Daft.

      • While we’re at it, why not do away with the stupid free hit and the restrictions on the dismissals allowed on the free hit. It penalizes the bowlers in an unfair manner. Why should the batsman be entitled to a free run on a no-ball or wide instead of just asking the bowler to bowl again? And can the distance from pitch to boundary line be standardized? We’ve got grounds in Australia where the boundary seems miles away, and the ones in India where a mishit can result in a six.

        • In my previous post, I meant to say ask the bowler to bowl the delivery again, but do not gift any free runs to the batsman for a no ball or a wide. Just a suggestion 🙂

  13. Afridi was good as captain in the last ODI. But arent all stand in captains good. Pak have had too many captains oflate. And at this rate, it wont be far when the younger Akmal will take over as captain. For now though, Afridi seems the only option.

  14. Hi Prem: I sourced these photos from New Zealand. Incidentally, I was interviewed on the show as well as Manoj and Bishan Bedi who was the cricket captain on that tour. But this particular video link is too short to show the whole bulletin.
    Gulu Ezekiel

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