August 10, 2013

Is this being taped?

There's something sinisterly fun about using silicone strips on bats. At least more fun than talking about England

So now a humble roll of silicone-based tape can be added to the other exhibits at the Museum of Cricket Naughtiness, which include a pocketful of compost, a bag of centrally contracted Ashes-winning boiled sweets, a sprinkling of angry jelly beans, a badly damaged bottle top, and a fragment of one of Shahid Afridi's incisors.

This episode of silicone-based silliness has also given us a glimpse into the strange, Alice-in-Wonderland realm that is professional cricket, the inhabitants of which maintain a joyfully idiosyncratic approach to matters of ethics.

Here, for instance, is Michael Vaughan's reaction to Siliconegate:

"Silicone tape, my arse…"

For the avoidance of doubt, reader, that was not a request. Michael pooh-poohs the very idea of a cricketer dabbling in such things. Applying silicone-based tape to the edge of a bat? Why that's ludicrous, the stuff of science fiction. Silicone tape on a bat? Ha! Preposterous!

"Has Vaseline on the outside edge saved the day for Laxman?"

Petroleum jelly on a bat, now that is much more likely.

To be fair to the former England captain, there is a difference between what he implied in 2011, and his response to this summer's silicone slander. Allow me to explain:

1. Kevin Pietersen plays for England
2. VVS Laxman has never played for England.

I hope that makes things clearer.

Of course, all this chat about surreptitious bat-gilding has stopped us talking about how good England are, which is a blessing, because talking about how good England are isn't much of a conversation. It tends to go like this:

"I see England have retained the Ashes. They are a remarkably consistent team."

"Yes, remarkably consistent. And efficient."

"Absolutely, very efficient. And organised."

"Yes, I concur. They are exceedingly well-organised."

"In fact, I sometimes wonder whether their organisation has something to do with their being remarkably consistent."

"Do you know, I think you're right. Their efficiency probably helps too."

"I wouldn't be at all surprised. And let's not forget how reliable their players are."

"Indeed. Do you remember that shot Jonathan Trott played?"

"No, not really."

"No, me neither."

"They say it may rain tomorrow?"

"Oh dear."

"Well, bye then."


I have no idea whether or not batsmen have been lining their bats with space-age super tape, but I hope it's true. There's a hint of the 18th century skulduggery about these accusations of silicone subterfuge, a reminder of a time when bats were curved, hats were tricorn, no one wore pads and rules were for sissies. And, let's face it, talking about cheating, umpiring blunders, and infra-red ghost nicks is far more fun than talking about the Ashes.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here