Not having a ball


Just a few days back, a former England captain with heaps of wickets under his belt made the observation on television that the ball change that the umpires made in the game against Sri Lanka at The Oval was because they found it had been tampered with.

He backed his argument by saying that since the umpires did not put the ball through the rings which are used to check if the ball had lost shape, it had to be because somebody had changed the condition of the ball.

The umpires carry these measuring rings like policemen carry handcuffs, and according to the former England skipper, none of the umpires passed the ball through the rings. He also added, for good measure, that he knew which player had been up to mischief but obviously couldn’t take his name.

In fact, not just him, but some other former England skippers feel that this player has been picked mainly to do the things that get the ball to contrast swing. According to these gents, that is an open secret but nobody is willing to go on record.

England skipper Alastair Cook denied that the ball had been changed because of tampering but that it had simply gone out of shape and the allegations were baseless. Later, Jimmy Anderson also went on record blasting the former England skipper who made the allegation and said that they do not tamper with the ball and were not worried about the allegation.

The former England skipper has been known to be a trenchant critic of the English game and many in the media also hinted that he was a disgruntled old man who was always up to these sort of statements.

The English media, who otherwise would have been up in arms, went silent after Jimmy Anderson’s interview with just the odd paper giving space to the former England skipper’s statement.

The ICC, the highest body in the game, also came out with a statement that the ball was changed because it went out of shape. The Brit media followed suit and the matter has seemingly ended there.

Now just imagine if a former India skipper alleged that one of the Indian bowlers had been tampering with the ball and that is why the umpires changed it.

Now just imagine further, the India skipper saying at the media conference that it was not true and the ball was changed because the umpires thought that it had gone out of shape, even though nobody had noticed the umpires putting it through the rings to check if it had indeed gone out of shape, and even further imagine one of India’s prime new ball bowlers saying that they do not indulge in stuff like that and that the ball was changed by the umpires because it went out of shape.

Now imagine the ICC coming out with a statement that the umpires had indeed changed the ball because they felt that it had gone out of shape and that it is not mandatory for them to put it through the rings, and a visual observation is good enough.

Do you think that, if that happened, it would be the end of the matter as is the case now, or whether the Brit media or for that matter the entire media, would have let the matter go? Firstly, there would have been the allegation that the BCCI had used its financial clout to get the ICC to issue such a statement and had also asked that the umpire who kept looking at the ball ever so often should be sacked.

It is simply inconceivable that the matter would have been dropped, as it has now with the ICC statement, and there would standards Double be plenty of critical comments about BCCI. That is something that is pretty much expected now since BCCI is the favourite punching bag and is accused only of thinking about finance. Next year, the Indian team is due to tour England for a five- Test series, and as always, there will be a two- Test series with another country before that.

It would be interesting to compare the ticket rates for both those series as also the rates for hospitality boxes at the matches. You can be sure that it will be double, if not more than that of the two- Test series, for the authorities know that despite everything, Indian cricket fans will still come out to support their team and will pay any price to attend the matches.

So the conclusion is, that it is alright for the England and Wales Cricket Board to cash in on the popularity of the Indian team and the support base that it has, but it is not okay for the BCCI to cash in on their own cricket team.

Mind you, it’s not just the England and Wales Cricket Board and other boards, but even in India, there are many who profit from the BCCI and Indian cricket but are the first to throw stones at it as was seen during the recent controversy that Indian cricket found itself in.

When things are not going well on the field, the coaches would tell you ‘after all it is cricket’. What happened on the field in the IPL was certainly not cricket, but neither was the targeting off the field of some individuals who had nothing to do with the mischief that had happened on the field.

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