Wasim Akram, the former Pakistan fast bowler and current bowling coach of the Kolkata Knight Riders, has said players in the IPL have been actively tampering with the ball, making it difficult for batsmen to sight it in the later stages of the innings. Akram said he has spotted bowlers rubbing red soil on the ball in places like Mumbai, Rajasthan and Ahmedabad once the floodlights take effect, thereby reducing its visibility when the batsmen are looking to accelerate.
"I won't name anyone but I have seen quite a few cricketers who have been rubbing mud on the ball and that is also tampering," Akram told espnstar.com. " If umpires are not watching then I don't know who is. In this IPL, umpires should look for players who are putting mud on the ball because you can't alter the state of the ball with anything.
"Around the 18th, 19th over in places like Rajasthan, Mumbai or Ahmedabad where there is red soil it is difficult to see the ball under lights and by putting the mud on the ball these players are trying to contain the batsmen or get wickets."
However, Akram denied that rubbing mud on the ball would result in reverse swing. He added that the practice of spinners vigorously running their hands over mud before bowling does not amount to tampering. "That is different, that is just to get some grip on the ball but here someone is just going berserk rubbing the mud on the ball," he said.
Akram's claims have been denied by Shane Warne, the Rajasthan Royals captain. "I don't agree with it. I have been hearing this for the first time. You better ask Akram. Maybe he is an expert on this," Warne said.
Akram took over his position with the franchise at the start of this season and is the only Pakistani involved in the IPL. One of the team's strike bowlers, Ishant Sharma, has struggled in the tournament, picking seven wickets from as many games at an expensive economy rate of 9.44 and conceding 33 runs per wicket. Akram admitted that the fast bowler was struggling to find his rhythm but backed him to bounce back.
"He is out of rhythm but is working extremely hard. He just needs a couple of good games and the rhythm will be back," Akram said. "Ishant feels his run-up is not smooth and the rhythm is not there. He just needs to bowl in the nets, which he is doing, and which will help him get the rhythm back. He is getting wickets but in T20 it is difficult to regain form because, unlike Test matches and ODIs, there are just four overs bowled here and that too on dead tracks."
He said a county stint would help Ishant immensely. " I think he will be playing for Hampshire this season. And that will improve his bowling and organisational skills because in England he will be alone," Akram said. "When I was 21, I used to get up at one o' clock because at this age you tend to sleep late and he does the same which is fine with me. But in county cricket, he won't get time to rest so much because he will be traveling and bowling everyday. In the process his bowling muscles will get stronger which will help increase his pace."
When asked about up and coming fast bowlers who have impressed him in his coaching stint, Akram singled out the Under-19 left-arm seamer Jaidev Unadkat. "This young kid in our side, Jaidev Unadkat, is the one to watch out for. He is lean like I was when I was 17-18, he can swing the ball both ways and he is hard working. I think we will hear about him in about a couple of years."