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Monday, June 1, 2020

Cricket ball - tampering, salaiva to keep shine and weighted ball !

Three decades ago, when Nations were touring Pakistan and played Cricket over there in 3rd test at Faislabad in Oct 1990 – Pak were bundled out for 102 by little known Chris Pringle taking 7 wickets; he took another 4 but New Zealand lost that match by 65 runs !   Do you know or remember or have read about that match ?

In colloquial language, an average is a single number taken as representative of a list of numbers. Different concepts of average are used in different contexts. Often "average" refers to the arithmetic mean, the sum of the numbers divided by how many numbers are being averaged. In statistics, mean, median, and mode are all known as measures of central tendency, and in colloquial usage any of these might be called an average value.  Mathematics is never simple; its beauty is its complexity.  The weighted arithmetic mean is similar to an ordinary arithmetic mean (the most common type of average), except that instead of each of the data points contributing equally to the final average, some data points contribute more than others. The notion of weighted mean plays a role in descriptive statistics and also occurs in a more general form in several other areas of mathematics.

Under Law 41, subsection 3 of the Laws of Cricket, the ball may be polished without the use of an artificial substance, may be dried with a towel if it is wet, and have mud removed from it under supervision; all other actions which alter the condition of the ball are illegal.

For sure you would have observed  that  on every  Cricketing ground, that fielders especially standing closer to the bowler, rub the ball vigorously to keep the shine – salaiva would be applied generously.  Many of you may not know or remember that India would play with a single fast bowler and had opened the attach with Solkar & Gavaskar or Solkar and Bishan Bedi – the ball would be rolled from Thirdman or from long-off to ensure that it loses its shine sooner and would spin like a top in the hands of Spin-quartet.  Life has changed totally ! 

Ball tampering and making the ball swing extravagantly is not new to Cricket – Pakis displayed it with Sarfraz Nawaz, Sikhandar Bakht, Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Wakar Younis, Aaqib Javed all took many wickets swinging wildly.  In 1976,  In the series opener, in Delhi, John Lever, a fast-medium swing bowler from Essex, took  7 for 46 and 3 for 24 (aided by "a rogue ball which swung extravagantly") on his Test debut, as England won by an innings.  After another comprehensive England win in Calcutta- by ten wickets - the newspapers were turning on India and the players, especially the captain, Bishan Bedi, were feeling the pressure.  Lever was among wickets at Chepauk too, though Underwood dominated here.  John Lever  played 21 Tests took 73 wickets in all but never performed anywhere closer to his debut Test and series.  It swing bowling was an art and he could do it so well in India, why the ball never swung such in his own place in much more favourable circumstances ! –  At the Pongal Test in Chepauk,  John Lever, who took five for 59 in the innings (two of them on the previous day) was reported by umpire Reuben to be carrying on his person a strip of surgical gauze impregnated with vaseline.  He had them on his eyebrows and used the substance for polishing the ball and getting swing.

Even as live cricketing action takes a backseat for the time being owing to Covid-19, steps to be taken for the sport to resume — once the pandemic recedes — are being discussed. Most of these discussions have centered around the ball, after the ICC medical committee suggested that it would be dangerous to use saliva or sweat to shine the ball in the current circumstances.  Shining the ball with saliva or sweat will be restricted in Australia under a framework released by the federal government about the staged return of both professional and recreational sport amid the coronavirus pandemic. The guidelines, drawn up by the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in conjunction with medical experts, sporting bodies and federal and state governments, outline a staged return to play at all levels, hastened by the desires of the winter football codes in particular to return in time to salvage some of their seasons. Cricket Australia's chief medical officer John Orchard was involved in the preparation of the framework.

They will have international implications, as cricket administrators are actively considering the possibility of allowing the ball to be polished with artificial substances to reduce the risks associated with using saliva on the ball and then passing it around the field of play.  "Sport makes an important contribution to the physical, psychological and emotional well-being of Australians," the framework report states. "The economic contribution of sport is equivalent to 2-3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating effects on communities globally,  and the game as no contact sport could return sooner than others.

Australian leg-spin legend Shane Warne is the latest to weigh in on the ongoing debate. Never one to be left behind when it comes to thinking out of the box, Warne  suggested the use of a weighted ball – akin to a taped tennis ball where one side is heavier than the other – to enable the ball to swing without the need to shine it. According to Warne, it will help fast bowlers get sideways movement even on flat pitches and also do away with the inconvenient subject of ball-tampering. Up until now, the suggestions had been to allow the use of an external substance to shine the ball, which would require the ICC to alter its laws on ball-tampering.  You wouldn’t have to worry about anyone tampering the ball with bottle tops, sandpaper, or whatever. It would be a good competition between bat and ball,” he added. While Warne might have thought the idea through, lot of collective brainstorming will be needed before such a proposal can take any shape.

For former India pacer Chetan Sharma, Warne’s proposal is a nonstarter. The 54-year-old believes that there is no need to tinker with the game, adding that this phase where sporting activity has been brought to a standstill will eventually pass. “I think we are overcomplicating matters. Let cricket be what it is. Let’s not make it a circus. According to me, cricket can resume once the pandemic subsides. If all the players playing a particular match test negative, what is the problem? That is the only way. Let’s not alter the game,” Sharma told TOI on Tuesday. According to Sharma, the use of saliva or sweat on the ball is unavoidable simply because it’s human nature for people to touch their mouths and faces every once in a while.

While shining the ball helps the pacers extract movement, leggie Piyush Chawla pointed out that it helps spinners too. “Shine on the ball helps spinners get drift. If it is a turning track, it doesn’t make a difference. But on good pitches, spinners too need that shine to get drift and fox the batsmen,” he observed. As far as bowling with a weighted ball goes, however, Chawla said he has no experience to draw from. “I don’t know about bowling with a weighted ball. I have only used taped tennis balls for practising batting against swing bowling. So I am not sure how a spinner will be impacted with a taped or weighted ball.”

The thorny subject of ball tampering has stalked the game for many years, but it is only in the last couple of decades that it has become something a wider audience has been aware of. Arguably, it has been going on since cricket's earliest days, but invasive TV coverage and the media's appetite for controversy has brought it to the surface.

One of the most bizarre - and blatant - instances of ball tampering occurred during New Zealand's tour of Pakistan in the autumn of 1990. From the off, New Zealand expressed deep reservations about the way that the Pakistan bowlers got the ball to reverse swing, and the appearance of the ball.  When the Pakistan Cricket Board suggested appointing neutral umpires, Martin Crowe, New Zealand's captain, said that it had to be "better than having two Pakistani umpires". Unsurprisingly, the PCB did an about-turn and dropped the plan.  In the second Test at Lahore, Martin Crowe remembered that he encountered reverse-swing for the first time on his way to a second-innings hundred. "Six supposed outswingers [from Wasim Akram] suddenly became six lethal inswingers. I had never seen it before and I became curious." During the innings, Crowe dropped a delivery from Abdul Qadir at his feet and bent down to pick it up and lob it back to the bowler. "It was totally mutilated on one side with two or three deep scratches gouged out," he said. "I complained to the umpires but they did nothing."   Ian Taylor, the New Zealand manager, made an official complaint at the end of the match, but it was dismissed with the officials stating that the condition of the ball resulted from a rough outfield and advertising hoardings.

                    Chris Pringle, at the time New Zealand's opening bowler, decided to take the law into his own hands. "There was something going on," he recalled in his autobiography Save The Last Ball For Me. "And whether what I did was the right or wrong way to make the ball look as it did in the next Test, I had to try it." On the morning of the first day of the final Test at Faisalabad, Pringle decided to put what he had learned into practice. He found an old bottle top, cut it into quarters, covered the serrated edge with tape, leaving a sharp point exposed. At the first drinks interval the umpires did not ask to look at the ball and, with Pakistan making sedate progress, Pringle started scratching the ball with the bottle top. Pakistan crashed from 35 for 0 to 102 all out. Pringle finished with his Test-best figures of 7 for 52.

Interesting !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
6th May 2020.

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