Cricket news - View-Counterview: Should cricket move towards controlled ball tampering?

Is time ripe to make way for controlled tampering or is it too ambiguous?

Is time ripe to make way for controlled tampering or is it too ambiguous?

Law 41.2.3 of the MCC Laws of Cricket rules a player to have committed an offence if he takes any action to wilfully change the condition of the ball. However, the fielder is permitted to polish the ball provided he/she uses no "artificial substance" to do so. Together saliva and sweat have 'naturally' met bowlers' demands to have one side of the ball shinier thereby allow faster airflow and facilitate the physics of swing.

The COVID-19 Coronavirus has of course exposed the dangers of applying saliva on the ball, its high risk of transmission forcing the ICC cricket committee into recommending its ban on ball maintenance. Sweat is deemed safe. Leading fast bowlers, including the No.1 Test bowler Pat Cummins, still seek an alternative to saliva. Which begs the question - can we open the realms of the law to facilitate the use of artificial ball shiners - wax, polish or sandpaper - in the post Corona world of cricket?

View: Time ripe to legalise "controlled" ball tampering

This was true even pre-Corona but a pandemic is perhaps a good time to reduce cricket's dependency on bodily fluids to gain a competitive edge. Even in the centre of the Sandpapergate, there were those that acknowledged the exaggeration of everything that unfolded thereafter. Cricketers have indulged in ball skulduggery since time immemorial, it's a fact. Of course, some have been more brazen - using bottle tops and razor blades - than the others - sugary mints. The late Bob Woolmer summed up MCC's law 41.3.2 best when he famously said: "It's like prohibition: the more you ban alcohol, the more it goes underground. The more laws you make to try to stop it being done, the more the players go the other way."

As the ICC Cricket Committee acknowledged, this sport needs enhanced hygiene measures on the ground, now more than ever. With saliva out of the way, who is to say those not blessed with generous sweat glands on the forehead wouldn't go the Fanie de Villiers way of using the armpits. Imagine being a slip fielder in this COVID world watching this and the next ball kisses the outside edge and flies towards you.

The best way, therefore, is to standardise the "artificial substance" to be used - a sandpaper or a special wax - and have its application performed in full view of the umpires (as with cleaning the seam). MCC's blessing here would create a level playing field in this highly professional setup, reduce avenues for cheating and if anything, create a safer atmosphere around the game.

Counterview: Definitely not. Too ambiguous.

Imagine David Warner's shock. He logs off TikTok and stumbles upon an ICC announcement that says his 'crime' - the one he served a year's ban for - is actually legal now. Allowing players to tamper the ball will come as a big slap in the face of Cricket Australia, and their much-publicised reaction to the Newlands Test saga from 2018, when they handed out lengthy bans to three players, underwent a culture review and vigorously attempted an image change.

Even if you argue that those events occured in a pre-COVID-19 world when times weren't unprecedented like they are now, there's likely to be a hurdle at the first step in the attempt to redefine the laws. How exactly do you define 'controlled' ball tampering without making it ambiguous? Provide an airport-like list of banned and permissible items? Involve the umpires each time a bowling side plans to give the ball a shine via an external object?

Even if these concerns are somehow assuaged, and we dive into the world of cricket where tampering is the norm, what will it do to the legacy of some of the fast bowlers who still have much to offer? What will be spoken of say, the incumbent No.1 Pat Cummins, years later when he's compared with the other modern-day stalwarts who didn't enjoy the luxury of bowling in a similarly favourable environment?

Should he end up adding considerably to his current tally of 143 Test wickets, and go past milestones of a Dale Steyn or a James Anderson, will he be held on a higher pedestal, or with an asterisk to his achievements to denote the advantage afforded to him? Or worse still, dismissed from debates on account of it? Will the inference drawn from any comparative analysis be a true reflection, thanks to the tweak to a law that's been in place for so long?

What's your view on this debate? Mail in your opinions to [email protected] and we'll feature the best of them below.

S Sooryanarayanan: 'How about using red balls for limited-overs cricket?'

This situation is undeniably a Catch-22 one and there is popular belief that saliva must be used to shine the ball, else the bowlers are pretty much out of the game. Interestingly, the white Kookaburra ball doesn't swing much, and with small-sized grounds and inventive batting techniques, the bowlers will suffer. This could call for a controlled form of tampering the ball but since it would be a first, it could end up in controversy should there be any form of ambiguity with regards to the dos and don'ts.

So here's an idea: How about using the balls used in Test matches instead of the white ball in limited-overs cricket? The red Dukes ball can be used for day games while the pink Kookaburra can be used for day-night encounters. The fact that the pink ball swings under lights could also help the bowling side nullify the effect of dew. It could also mean no coloured clothing, but it surely can't be worse than imbalance between bat and ball.

Birjraj Rautela: 'Will this help in reviving Test cricket?''

Test cricket, as we know is losing its sheen, because T20 and ODIs are quick and exciting. But again, we all know that magic of cricket lies in Test cricket. Already the shortened versions of the game are tilted towards batsmen and in such times, Test cricket needs support. It lies in making it exciting, without diminishing its essence and character. For that to happen, the ICC or any other board should stop being harsh on Test cricket. Flat pitches result in boring matches that disappoint the viewers, more so the new generation of viewers. if not for tilting it towards bowlers, the current situation demands that Test cricket needs to be a balancing competition between bat and ball. I am arguing for test cricket with respect to ball-tampering as Test cricket will be fundamentally affected by it. It's not that before the Capetown drama there wasn't any ball tampering in cricket. In fact reverse swing has its genesis in altering the condition of the ball. No two views can be said on that. Ball tampering continued to remain in shadows until some over-adventurous guys thought to have an absurd sense of bravery. Yes, they were punished, but what about those who did it, and went unpunished. Okay, innocent until proved guilty but we do have statements of many former greats of cricket who have admitted to some sort of tampering every now and then. Change is the only constant. It's now the time to formally accept ball tampering as a legal commodity, and give it a proper shape and size. Yes, uniformity must be maintained for its successful debut, but then given the will and attention of those in-charge, I don't believe its a tough thing to be implemented. I strongly agree that ball tampering must be legalized with uniform guidelines.