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Cricketers and misadventures with the ball

A look back at some cricketers that faced the brunt of the ICC over ball tampering.

Faf du Plessis
Faf du Plessis, seen here in action in the second Test against Australia, escaped a match ban

With Faf du Plessis at the receiving end of ICC’s diktat, the murky issue of ball-tampering has resurfaced. While the act of shining the ball seemed rather innocuous at the outset, close scrutiny of video footage meant that the actions of South Africa’s skipper were always going to come up review.

With the players now being made aware that their actions when handling the ball will probably be video taped more often, they are only likely to be more cautious than ever when on-filed. 

Cricket is perhaps one of the few ball games where players are permitted to nurture the ball – via methods permissible by the rules – to control its movement when delivered by the bowler. Pakistan’s legendary fast bowlers mastered the art of reverse-swing by relentlessly shining the ball on one side. Others tried to do the same with varied degrees of success.

That said, nurturing the ball is a facet of the game that is engrained in a player’s psyche. So much so that most teams even have a player designated to constantly shine the ball. 

With so much shining, saliva and sweat application taking place all the time, the temptation to try an alternate method is occasionally irresistible.

Here are some such instances when players have attempted to nurture the ball and found themselves on the wrong side of the ICC’s cricket regulations. 

Waqar Younis

The Pakistani spearhead holds the dubious distinction of being the first cricketer to be banned by the ICC for ball-tampering. He was found guilty of lifting the seam from the ball in a match against South Africa during the Singer Cup one-day series in Sri Lanka in 2000.

Based on video footage, Waqar Younis received a one-match ban and was fined 50% of his match fee. Azhar Mahmood was also questioned by the match referee John Reid. He was fined 30% of his match fee.

Michael Atherton

During England’s 1994 Lords Test match against South Africa, captain Michael Atherton drew unwanted attention. Cameras spotted the English captain clearly pulling out a substance from his pocket and then applying it on the ball. Atherton was accused of ball tampering and lying to the match referee. In his defence, Atherton stated that the dirt in his pocket was used to dry his hands and walked away with a GBP 2,000 fine for failing to disclose the dirt to the match referee.

Sachin Tendulkar

During the second Test match of India’s tour to South Africa in 2001, Sachin Tendulkar was cleaning out the seam of the ball. But allegations emerged, owing to television footage, that the Indian star was scuffing the seam of the cricket ball. An investigation ensued and the match referee Mike Denness suspended Tendulkar for one game. The incident escalated and allegations of racism emerged as well. The ICC later cleared Tendulkar of all charges.

Rahul Dravid

During India’s tour to Australia in 2004, Rahul Dravid was embroiled in a related controversy. In a game against Zimbabwe, the batting stalwart scored 84 and when he took the field, he did something peculiar. He picked out a cough lozenge that he was sucking on and promptly applied it to the shiny side of the white cricket ball. The television cameras picked up the incident and match referee Clive Lloyd swooped in. Dravid was fined 50% of his match fee.

Shahid Afridi

In an ODI against Australia in 2010, Shahid Afridi did the unimaginable. While walking alongside the bowlers, Afridi promptly bit into the seam of the ball much to the amusement of the commentators on-air. The umpires spotted it and promptly had the ball replaced. Afridi later apologised.

“My methods were wrong. I am embarrassed, I shouldn't have done it. I just wanted to win us a game but this was the wrong way to do it,” he said. But an unrelenting ICC levied a two T20I match ban on Afridi.

Vernon Philander

During South Africa’s 2014 tour of Sri Lanka, Veron Philander was found guilty of ball-tampering when television cameras spotted him scratching the surface of the cricket ball. He parted way with 75 percent of his match fee.

Faf du Plessis

This was the first instance when du Plessis found himself at the wrong end of the law. Playing Pakistan in a Test match at Dubai in 2013, du Plessis gave in to the temptation of rubbing the ball vigorously against the zipper of his trousers.

The umpires duly changed the ball and added five penalty runs to Pakistan. Later, when the South African confessed and pleaded guilty, a fine worth 50 of his match fee was levied. 

Also read: Faf du Plessis fined by the International Cricket Council (ICC)

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