How about some leeway for cricketers, writes Ian Chappell
I said it before and I'm saying it again: Players should be allowed one thing that assists them in swinging the ball. Like wrist-spin, the swinging delivery is crucial to Test cricket’s viability
SA's Faf du Plessis during a press conference ahead of the third Test against Australia on Wednesday. He was fined 100% of his match fees after being found guilty of ball-tampering at Hobart. Pic/Getty Images
The furore over Faf du Plessis' mint sucking episode brought a whole new connotation to the term gob-smacked, following Australia's complete capitulation at Bellerive. Like the capitulation, Du Plessis' misdemeanour at Bellerive could prove to be a watershed moment; the former instance turned the spotlight on Australian selections, while the latter had 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 one thing that assisted them in swinging the ball.
Swing bowling is crucial
Like wrist-spin bowling, 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 mis-judgement that prematurely ends an innings.
The risk/reward aspect of these two forms of bowling add 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 the law makers should invite the 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 would then decide on one thing that enhanced swing bowling and make it legal.
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.
Make one method legal
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, in making a defiant century at the Adelaide Oval. By the time Du Plessis was celebrating his three figure score I'll bet there were many pro-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 then 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 that attract many overseas players, there are now virtually no secrets in the game. Also the advent of these leagues mean that players from different international teams become quite close friends and consequently they're 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.
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