Candid about candy

The bats have become bigger and better, but there is no change in the balls. Perhaps it’s time to allow the bowlers to do whatever they can to get the maximum from the ball to even the contest in a game that is loaded in favour of the batsmen!

South Africa captain Faf du Plessis at a press conference in Adelaide after the ICC found him guilty of ball tampering. He was slapped a fine of 100% of his match fees.   -  AP

The International Cricket Council’s decision to penalise the South African skipper, Faf du Plessis, for ball tampering — he used the saliva, formed while sucking on a mint, on the ball — has created a lot of controversy. Du Plessis has appealed against the fine of 100% of his match fees and, at the time of writing, the hearing of the appeal has not taken place. It is not the amount of fine — the South African is one of the highly paid players in T20 leagues — but the allegation of being a cheat that du Plessis will not want against his record. Being fined for other issues does not leave a bad taste in the mouth, but being accused of cheating is a major one and nobody wants that against his name.

 

The irony of it all is that sharp practices have been part of cricket for a long, long time. Ball tampering is of many kinds. There is the raising of the seam to give the new ball bowlers a more prominent seam, which they can use to swing or cut the ball off the pitch. The spinners also like to grip the ball with a raised seam so that they can impart more revolutions to the ball. Then there is the way of shining the ball with Vaseline or sticky substance. Some players even used butter on their trousers or on their shirtsleeves so that they could rub the ball there to retain its shine, and the new ball bowlers would get a ball that would keep its shine for long.

Of course, this was well before reverse swing or contrast swing came into the game. At that time, it was thought of as illegal. And those scuffing up the ball on one side so that the other side would remain shiny and the ball would swing in the opposite side to where the shine was, were called cheats. Of course, now that all teams are practising it and are good at it, nobody complains about it.

Then, there is the case of batsmen not walking even when they have hit the cover off the ball. Their defence is that they had earlier been given out when they had not nicked the ball, or when they had edged the ball, they were given out leg before wicket. So it is up to the umpire to give him out or not out, but he was not going to walk. How this is not cheating is beyond my understanding. I mean, when you know you are out and you don’t leave the crease, then it is nothing but cheating. Unfortunately, there is the excuse of good and bad decisions evening out over a career. Therefore, the batsman not walking is accepted by just about everybody, and nobody points a finger at the batsman who stays even when he knows he is out. No finger is pointed even at a fielder, who knows the ball has not carried to him cleanly and has bounced before settling into his palms, or a bowler, who appeals even when he knows the batsman has not edged the ball, or goes up for a leg before decision even when he knows that the batsman has edged the ball.

Today, with the terrific TV coverage and its slow motion technology, the ‘cheats’ are found out soon enough. The cameras are so good nowadays that it is easy to see if there is an edge, and the ultra-edge, snickometer and hotspot can, most of the time, tell you if the ball has kissed the bat or not. With this technology in place, you would think that most of today’s players would not want to be found out and so do the right thing — batsmen by walking if they had edged the ball or been caught and the bowlers and fielders not appealing if they knew the batsman was not out. However, batsmen stay if the opposition has run out of challenges. That is the reason it is baffling why Faf du Plessis has been hung out to dry.

Sure, the rules are there but it’s about time that as it happened with reverse swing this bit about the lolly should not be made an issue. The bats have become bigger and better, but there is no change in the balls. Perhaps it’s time to allow the bowlers to do whatever they can to get the maximum from the ball to even the contest in a game that is loaded in favour of the batsmen!