August 28, 2008

Weapons of mass destruction

Judhajit Basu
Methods players have used to doctor the cricket ball

Marcus Trescothick recently revealed how he used Murray Mints to doctor the cricket ball during the 2001 Ashes. We look at 11 instances of tampering, proven and alleged, in which players have used a variety of implements - from cough drops to boot spikes - to alter the condition of the ball.

John Lever's Vaseline-impregnated gauze strip caused controversy during England's tour of India in 1976-77 © Getty Images

In the first Test at the Feroze Shah Kotla in Delhi on England's tour to India in 1976-77, India were reduced from 43 for no wicket to 49 for 4 on the second evening, thanks largely to John Lever, the Essex left-arm bowler, who swung the game England's way. He went on to take seven in the innings, and ten in the match.

By the third Test of the series, it was not just the Indians, down 0-2, who were sweating. The England team physio proposed a solution for his bowlers: strips of Vaseline-soaked gauze stuck on their brows to prevent the perspiration from dripping down their faces. During the course of the match, Lever at one point took off his gauze and threw it on the ground, where it was seized upon by the umpire. Bedi, the Indian captain, alleged that the bowler had, in effect, engaged in ball-tampering - not only in the game underway, but also in Delhi - by rubbing Vaseline on the ball, thus deriving the swing that destroyed India in both Tests. England for their part said that while there had been a technical breach of the law, the offence was totally unintentional, and pointed out that by the time the gauze strips were worn there was no need to resort to illegitimate means as the Indian innings was already on the rocks.

England captain Michael Atherton was at the centre of controversy during the first Test at Lord's against South Africa in 1994 after damning television footage caught him reaching into his pocket and then rubbing a substance on the ball. Atherton denied the charges of ball-tampering, claiming he was drying his hands on some dirt that he had in his pocket. "We were trying to get the ball to reverse swing and needed one side of the ball to remain completely dry," he said. Atherton was summoned by match referee Peter Burge and was fined £2000 for failing to disclose the dirt. Atherton claimed in his autobiography that he answered "No" when asked if he had anything in his pockets, believing Burge was referring to nefarious substances such as resin, lip salve and the like.

Among Gloucestershire fast bowler Steve Kirby's claims to fame is that he once remarked to Atherton that he had seen better players in his fridge. Kirby burst upon the scene in 2000, just when it looked like his chance of county honours was on the point of passing him by and he would have to return to his other trade, selling industrial flooring. In 2005 Kirby found himself in hot water over flooring of another kind, when Glamorgan claimed he had scuffed the match ball against the concrete surface of the Sophia Gardens car park during a Championship game in Cardiff. The incident earned him a three-day ban and cost him £125 in fines subsequently.

Cough lozenge
This instance is possibly the closest to the Trescothick case. In the sixth ODI of the 2004 VB Series in Australia between India and Zimbabwe at the Gabba, the then Indian vice-captain Rahul Dravid was caught by television cameras applying what appeared to be a cough lozenge on the shiny side of the ball. According to India's coach, John Wright, "the saliva was coloured with that sweet [he was eating] and he wiped it off because he knew immediately it was only supposed to be saliva or perspiration". Match referee Clive Lloyd, however, refused to accept suggestions that Dravid had "accidentally" tampered with the ball, and found him guilty of a Level 2 offence and imposed a penalty of 50% of his match fee for breaching the ICC code of conduct.

South Africa captain Hansie Cronje found himself mired in controversy during the 1997-98 tour of Australia. Television pictures showed him rolling the ball along the ground with the spikes of his boots during a break in play caused by a crowd disturbance in a one-day match against Australia in Sydney a fortnight before the first Test. Cronje claimed later that he was distracted as order was being restored after members of the crowd threw objects at South African players. "The players wanted action and my mind was racing," he said. Bob Woolmer, the South Africa coach, and Alan Jordaan, the team manager, played down the incident after match referee Cammie Smith and the Australian board issued a clean chit. Woolmer even dismissed the affair as a conspiracy to unsettle the tourists ahead of the Test.

Bottle caps I
Imran Khan may have had a successful career in county cricket - he took the only hat-trick of his first-class career for Sussex at Old Trafford - but by his own admission not all of his bowling feats in England were entirely legit. As he revealed in his autobiography, there were numerous occasions when he scratched the side of the ball and lifted the seam. Only once, though, did he use an object, he claimed. "When Sussex were playing Hampshire in 1981, the ball was not deviating at all," he wrote. " I got the 12th man to bring out a bottle top." The upshot was that the ball began to move around as it had not done before in the match. Sussex won and the umpires emerged none the wiser.

Bottle caps II
After his side was outdone in the first two Tests on the tour of Pakistan in the autumn of 1990, mostly by prodigious reverse swing, New Zealand bowler Chris Pringle took matters into his own hands. The New Zealand players, most notably Martin Crowe, had been crying foul through the series. On the first morning of the final Test in Faisalabad, Pringle decided to put to use what he had learned while experimenting in the nets. He cut an old bottle top into quarters and covered the serrated edge with tape, leaving a sharp point exposed. At the first drinks interval the umpires did not ask to look at the ball, and with Pakistan making sedate progress, Pringle began to scratch the ball with the masked bottle top. The results were almost immediate. Pakistan crashed from 35 for 0 to 102 all out and Pringle finished with his best Test figures of 7 for 52. He recalled that as he left the stadium after the first day's play, a local dignitary tapped him on the shoulder and said: "Pringle, it is fair now. Both teams are cheating."

Sachin Tendulkar was handed a one-Test ban after Mike Denness found him guilty of ball-tampering during the second Test against South Africa in 2001 © Getty Images

Fingernails I
Sachin Tendulkar's stellar career has had its fair share of controversy. One such instance came in the second Test of India's tour of South Africa in 2001, in Port Elizabeth, where six Indian players were sanctioned for excessive appealing and ball-tampering. Television cameras picked up images that seemed to show Sachin Tendulkar trying to lift the seam of the ball. In Tendulkar's defence it was said that he was attempting to clean the ball, which had gone muddy, and that that was being misconstrued as him trying to alter the condition of the ball. Match referee Mike Denness found the batsman guilty of ball-tampering and handed him a one-Test ban. Such was the furore over the decision that Denness was barred from officiating in the next match, at Centurion, and the ICC responded by withdrawing that game's Test status.

Fingernails II
Mick Lewis, the fast bowler from Victoria, was caught on camera applying his thumbnail to the ball during a Pura Cup game against Queensland at the Gabba in 2005. During the second day's play, Lewis had requested the on-field umpires, Norm McNamara and Dave Orchard, that he be allowed to clean the ball after it had been soiled by sand and dirt when retrieved from the boundary. Both umpires consented, and Lewis went on to apparently clean the ball with his thumb. Later in the day, he was seen to have applied his thumbnail to the ball. At the end of what turned out to be the first video review of its kind in Australian domestic cricket, the umpires said Lewis hadn't done anything illegal and let him off with a warning.

Fingernails III
In the Test series against Pakistan in 1992, England's four spectacular collapses - they lost their last six wickets for 42 runs in the first innings and 38 in the second at Lord's; their last eight for 28 at Headingley; and their last seven for 25 at The Oval - brought the Pakistani bowlers under the scanner. Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram made the old ball swing further than most people had ever seen it swing. Umpires Ken Palmer and John Hampshire made frequent inspections of the ball while the ICC match referee, Deryck Murray, was required to examine it at every interval. During the lunch interval in the fourth ODI of the Texaco Trophy at Lord's, the umpires and the match referee changed the ball for one of similar condition, leaving the reason for so doing open to speculation. There was no end to the confusion which followed and the accusations flew thick and fast. The row rumbled on until 1996 when Imran Khan sued Ian Botham and Allan Lamb, who had been among the most vocal with their allegations. Imran won and was awarded £400,000 by a British court.

The odd man out, and perhaps the only officially sanctioned aid to influencing the condition of the ball. A few eyebrows were raised over the "micro-trousers" worn by New Zealand on their 2008 tour of England. Developed under the supervision of Dipal Patel, a former engineering student at Loughborough University near Nottingham, the wonder pants claimed to improve an athlete's performance by 2.7%. The bowlers' version also includes a chamois-like patch to help shine the ball and make it swing. The manufacturer had initially looked at adding an abrasive material to the pants to help scuff one side of the ball in the hope of producing reverse swing but abandoned the idea so as not to get on the wrong side of the law-makers. Though pre-tested in the second Test at Old Trafford and "officially" worn by the players in the third Test at Trent Bridge, no advantage was visible as New Zealand went down 0-2. The MCC gave the trousers the all-clear on the grounds that they didn't break official ICC rules.

Judhajit Basu is a senior sub-editor with