Ball-tampering in cricket July 24, 2009

ICC should let bowlers 'prepare' the ball - Donald


Allan Donald, the former South African fast bowler, has said bowlers must be allowed to "prepare" the ball - ball-tampering, in other words - to redress the balance between bat and ball and protect the "dying breed" from increasingly lifeless pitches.

Speaking to Cricinfo on Friday, Donald was asked if he would recommend legalising ball tampering. He said: "The ICC would shoot me for saying it but, with the wickets that we play on and the dying breed fast bowlers are becoming on these flatter wickets, I would say we do need some sort of defence mechanism, something to fall back on to say 'Right, we can do this. We can now prepare this ball to go'."

Donald, currently the Warwickshire coach, knows, though, that his plea is likely to fall on deaf ears. "That [legalising ball-tampering] quite simply would never happen," he said.

Ball tampering was a raging issue in the 1990s, a period that coincided with Donald's rise as leader of the South African bowling attack. He agreed that bowlers had altered the condition of the ball in various ways to get prodigious reverse swing. "There is no doubt guys tampered with the ball," he said of the fast bowlers of his time. He recalled one incident in the mid-1990s when he saw a former fast bowler pick a little chunk of leather live on the television during a Test match against England. "The guy was just chipping away with his nails and I couldn't believe how he could get away with it," Donald said. "The commentator, a famous former player, said "Steady on", but he [bowler] denied it later. Let's not kid ourselves, there is no question it still goes on."

To get reverse swing, one must rough one side of the ball while polishing the other. "One [popular] way to do it is to get the ball into the dirt," Donald said, a method easily practised on rough subcontinent surfaces where the ball, especially the white one, soon gets scuffed up. "Even the red ball, in places like India, we found, did not take too long to reverse."

England also used reverse swing to win back the Ashes at home in 2005. "Yes, I remember [Andrew] Flintoff and [Simon] Jones do it beautifully to swing it both ways especially in Old Trafford by chucking the ball into the foothold."

Donald isn't the first fast bowler to make this case; in the mid-1990s, Sir Richard Hadlee had also asked for ball-tampering to be legalised. "As long as the bowlers or fielders use whatever means they have on their persons, I don't see anything wrong with it. I'm talking about the use of a finger nail to scratch the ball, not bottle tops or those sorts of things," Hadlee wrote in a newspaper column at the time.

Donald agreed the best method, if the ICC relented, was to rip the ball without artificial help. "I wouldn't bite it," he said with a chuckle. "One way is if the ball gets scuffed on one side,and there is a tiny little chunk that is missing, you pick it up and just keep that side dry and keep working on it, while shining the other side very heavily without putting any moisture. The whole team needs to keep track of this and should know the ball is reversing and they need to shine one side. The bowler, because he is bowling, should keep his wet hands on this side while keeping the other side dry. That's all you need."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • A on July 28, 2009, 9:24 GMT

    I think the solution is very simple...go back to uncovered pitches. It won't be so much of a use in Australia (because it doesn't rain very much during our summer months...might rain in Brisbane but not very often), but in England or the West Indies it would definitely even up the contest between batsman and bowler. Just after it has rained, the batsman gets it pretty easy because the pitch doesnt offer much bounce, so play on the front foot almost all the time. When it starts to dry out a little bit, thats when the favour swings back to the bowling team. And the batsman these days are padded up to the nines they probably wouldnt get injured anymore than they do now.

    Either that, or just tell the groundsman to make pitches that assist bowlers a bit more....and if they don't, they don't come back to that ground the next tour. Simple!

  • Jeyasingh on July 28, 2009, 8:05 GMT

    Allan Donald is making a mockery of Bowlers skill here. I would have been happy if he had garnered support in calling for Sporty wickets and Time Between matches(Which will help the Bowlers have enough rest).

  • Mike on July 28, 2009, 6:47 GMT

    Why don't we just get currators to prepare GOOD pitches.. Not good batting pitches.. Or good bowling pitches. I mean GOOD pitches. Where bat and ball are evenly matched and the spinners have something aswell.

    This is the inherrant problem with Twenty 20 cricket. Soon we will become so bored of high scoring matches and will start craving those tough mornings on a green track where the ball is swinging and seaming all over and only the best players make runs. That is cricket.

    Not making a aeroplane runway pitch where the batting team is 0-199 at lunch/tea.

    Administrators of cricket are just plain brainless. Ohh we need night tests. Ohh we need to improve over rates because crowds are low and money isn't flowing as much.

    WELL if you make a good wicket to play on then people will come and watch. I know that i would rather go to an even contest for 4 days than a batting fest that lasts for 5 days and goes no-where. People want entertainment. Quality not quantity

  • RQ on July 27, 2009, 15:54 GMT

    in short.... let the talent & skills be praised RATHER than praising cheating.

  • RQ on July 27, 2009, 15:51 GMT

    everything needs a talent... if a person can't do swing or reverse swing, he won't be able but with hardwork & practice.... it is like to allow to write from the textbooks when attempting a paper in exams, then how can the talent be judged =)... a team dominates the cricket because EITHER they have got talent OR they work/practice hard(& rarely with a GOOD luck).... why don't coach your team and do them some serious practice then relying on CHEATING.... another solution'd be, to go and SEARCH for the talented players within the country, believe me they'll find alot.... in the LAST, with no offense, when the subcontinent players show some talent, they call it CHEATING(like the the Two W's used to do reverse swingers with their own talent)... & when some English(or English-like) team does it, they call it SKILL/ART(like the English won the Ashes-2005 with the help of Flintoff & co. with the same art)...

  • usman on July 26, 2009, 15:39 GMT

    Well, here what he is saying makes sense but indeed much of what Donald generally says lacks much substance. He once famously called his dismissal of Atherton as the best ball he has ever bowled even though the essence of the dismissal was that Athers missed a swinging half-volley and that was about it!

  • Mohit on July 26, 2009, 14:03 GMT

    I think the ICC should actually legalise ball scuffing ... and remove the ball change rule after 35 overs becoz then the bowlers will have a say in the game.... but the fact that reverse swing is a surprise element of the game ... this is what does the trick and gets the batsmen out.... if it were to become a routine then the batsmen could end up playing it and practicing it as any other conventional inswing... this is a tricky turf and the ICC must look into the matter for the sake of Fast bowling's good ...

  • abdul mutalib on July 26, 2009, 12:54 GMT

    I agree with Donald, there should be balance between Ball & Bat , i think this is the only way of getting it in a batsman dominated game.or the ICC should change the game by having only one innings per side in a test match.

  • Siddique on July 26, 2009, 6:40 GMT

    Agree with Allan Donald 100%.

  • shafaet on July 26, 2009, 4:34 GMT

    ICC will never allow this. Rather they will put a put a bowling machine,set it up to bowl only full-tosses so that batsmen can hit more and more sixes. That's pathetic. Come on,batsmen are only a part of the game,keep something for the bowlers to or the game will sink into oblivion. Well said ALAN.

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