The double game

Nov 03 2013, 03:42 IST
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SummaryIf ball tampering is cheating, why is there a difference in the severity of punishments handed out to offenders? The time has come to accept that the ICC’s ‘spirit of cricket’ is nothing but a vague idea

Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s speciality is not just restricted to his pyrotechnics with the bat and his leadership qualities. It is also about his outlook towards the game.

After chasing down 350-plus targets twice in three completed matches, the captain of a team is supposed to be ecstatic. The fans were euphoric about another Virat Kohli-special, but the skipper put things in perspective after India’s win over Australia in Nagpur.

“It’s more of a fight (now) as to which side bowls less badly. A few of the bowlers are disappointed...They actually feel it will be better off to put a bowling machine there,” said Dhoni.

New balls from both ends and just four fielders outside the ring in non-powerplay overs have indeed made lives miserable for the bowlers in limited-overs cricket. The shorter format of the game is basically meant to be played on flat pitches and things have now become ridiculously lopsided in favour of the batters, especially in Indian conditions.

The whole dynamics of one-day cricket has altered following the rules change that came into effect on October 30 last year. A 300-plus total no longer remains awe-inspiring. With two new balls, reverse swing has gone out of equation, while the spinners are in constant trouble to grip the ball. “We don’t have to wait very long before 400-plus totals become routine in one-day cricket,” said Australian opener Aaron Finch the other day.

All these invite a question: Should ball tampering be made legal in all formats of the game?

These days, when batters are protected from head to toe, pitches are generally batting-friendly and the number of bouncers per over is restricted, bowlers do need some external help.

In fact, ball tampering should never be a major issue. Every team does it in some form or the other. It is prevalent in every level of the game for close to 100 years now.

John Lever used Vaseline on the ball during England’s tour of India in 1976-77 and got away with it. Pakistani cricketers reportedly stitched sandpapers on to their trousers when India visited across the border in 1982. Imran Khan became unplayable with the old ball in that series, though Sunil Gavaskar still managed to score a couple of centuries.

Former England captain Michael Atherton was caught rubbing loose soil on to the ball during a home Test match against South Africa in 1994. Unlike the previous incidents, Atherton, however, was fined.

But the International Cricket Council

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