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Allow players to use one method to aid swing

A player holds a ball Getty Images

The furore over Faf du Plessis' mint-sucking episode brought a whole new connotation to the word "gobsmacked", following Australia's complete capitulation at the Bellerive Oval.

Like the capitulation, du Plessis' misdemeanour could prove to be a watershed moment. The former turned the spotlight on Australian selections, while the latter might have a similar effect on the ball-tampering law.

On the basis that "if you can't beat them you might as well join them", I proposed a few years ago that players should be allowed to do one thing that assisted them in swinging the ball.

Like wristspin, the swinging delivery is crucial to Test cricket's viability as a competitive and entertaining sport. In both cases the bowler has to bowl a full length to encourage the batsman to drive, and this often leads to one of two outcomes: it either brings about a classical shot for a boundary, or a misjudgement that prematurely ends an innings. The risk-reward aspect of these two forms of bowling adds greatly to the anticipation and enjoyment of cricket fans. Both arts should be encouraged by selectors and law-makers.

With this in mind, I suggested that the law-makers should invite international captains to check with their players and then provide a list of things they felt enhanced swing bowling. Once these lists were submitted, the law-makers could then decide on one thing that enhanced swing bowling that could be made legal.

"The fact that no opponent of du Plessis was enraged by his actions, and many were even supportive, suggests that, as has been inferred, "all teams are doing it"

A player using any other method of enhancement would face a ban, with severe consequences for straying. By compromising in this manner, the administrators would not only enhance the game but also simplify life for the officials at the ground and give the players an incentive to obey the law.

By making one method of "preparing the ball" legal, there would also be less pressure on teams to try and outdo their opponents. There would also be less risk that one side would be caught while another got off scot-free. The greatest success on the field would then be achieved by the most skilful swing bowlers.

It was pretty obvious that du Plessis was angered by his fine and the inference that he was a cheat. He responded exactly as you would expect from a proud, strong-minded person, by making a defiant century at Adelaide Oval. By the time du Plessis was celebrating his three-figure score, I'll bet there were many Australian supporters who wished they hadn't inspired the South African captain by booing him on his way to the crease.

The fact that no opponent of du Plessis was enraged by his actions, and many were even supportive, suggests that, as has been inferred, "all teams are doing it". England's Marcus Trescothick even revealed in a book that the 2005 team used sweets to assist with the shining of the ball in their successful Ashes campaign.

Hence the feeling that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

If international batsmen were to object to a proposal to legalise a ball-shining enhancement, it would be hypocritical. Firstly, many of the current laws and playing conditions favour batsmen over bowlers. Secondly, the majority of captains are batsmen and they are happy to condone their own players' questionable actions when the team is in the field.

With the advent of leagues like the IPL, which attract many overseas players, there are now virtually no secrets in the game. Also, through these leagues players from different international teams have become quite close friends, and consequently they are reluctant to be critical of each other.

Producing late-swinging deliveries has always been a destructive weapon for bowlers and an exciting aspect of the game for fans. At Bellerive, Australia was beaten by the better bowling side rather than an opposing captain who liberally applied gobs of mint-flavoured saliva to the ball.