One would have to assume that all these outraged commentators have never played cricket with anything more substantial than a used tennis ball. For those of us who have played the game with any interest in the techniques and science of the game (alas, I am one such eccentric) know the true facts. The ball used in the “big boys” game has a leather exterior, and, in the course of play, that exterior, which has two sides, with a seam around the ball where the two sides meet, being leather, is affected by the course of play: being hit by the bat, landing on a rough surface (the pitch) at least once each ball, and rolling on the ground in the outfield, and even striking the boundary fence. This has some effect upon the ball, as a matter of course. Over the years the relative shininess of one side or other of the ball has been found to affect its trajectory through the air. As a player, you are entitled to take that into account.
So it is that “attention to the ball” has been long a part of the science of bowling. Keeping one side shinier than the other improves the chance of the ball “swinging” in the air, thus deceiving the batsman. The ball is polished on one side on one’s flannels or shirt. Many these days have small towels which can assist in the exercise. Players sometimes roll the ball down the harder pitch area to roughen up the ball. Players apply saliva to one side of the ball in this endeavour. Notwithstanding all this, these activities seem not to offend against “tampering” rules.
Well, what does ? Players have been penalised for altering the shape of the ball, raising the seam on the ball, using artificial means to roughen the surface of the ball. One of the South African heroes of the last test was penalised for using saliva adjusted by sticky lolly juice, but his penalty was relatively minor.
So where do our chaps stand? They have introduced a foreign substance, sand-paper, which may or may not have a very considerable effect on the lack of shine on one side of the ball. Dare I say, no great shakes. A bit silly and perhaps attempting an advantage against the other side. Well, who hasn’t wanted a bit extra to win ? How much of the tax-payers money was Mathias Cormann willing to use to bribe the two senators ?
The “moral outrage” expressed in the media, and, with typical misjudgement by Malcolm Turnbull, is way over the top. The sorry sight of Steve Smith weeping before the press for something which he previously thought was nothing much, is sick-making, even if scripted by employed publicists.
The punishments meted out are way out of proportion, by the standards of the game (It IS a game, isn’t it ?).
Our media should hang their heads in shame, as should hysterical pundits who know little of cricket, let alone desperate politicians, seeking to deflect attention from their own moral bankruptcy.
Jim Coombs opened for his school second XI, and played three seasons with the English Cricket Society (wandering) XI, a fine knock of 25 at Broadhalfpenny Down, and a gritty top score of 19 at Britwell Salome (Oxon). Has used reverse swing.