What a week it’s been in cricket. It’s all very well being saddened by the actions of Cameron Bancroft, Steve Smith et al, but I know I am not alone in hugely enjoying the fall from grace of these convict cheats. They’ve been more sanctimonious than St Peter doing some virtue-signalling from the pearly gates in recent months, and I’m enjoying their downfall about as much as is possible.
One response I’ve heard from some is a questioning of what’s so wrong with rubbing the ball with tape. I mean, come on, they say, we have all these players using their suncreamy sweat, and it’s a bit ridiculous to fine a player for using saliva gathered when the sweet was still in the fielder’s mouth, but not if he swallows the sweet and then harvests the sticky stuff.
And why is it alright for players to throw the ball in to the stumps on the bounce, deliberately roughing up one side, but not to just be blatant about abrading it in some other way?
Not to me. To me cricket is such a fantastic game because it demands that its players operate on a spectrum of acceptability in their behaviour. Take walking when you glove or nick the ball: it’s honourable to walk, but I’m fully behind Stuart Broad at Trent Bridge against the Aussies when he didn’t!
Or it’s a bit like at the Old Trafford 2005 Ashes Test with Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath batting to save the game. Lee stroked one into the deep, hoping to take a single to keep strike for the next over. The ball continued rolling towards the boundary and there was no way the English fielder (or any of the crowd) wanted it stopped. Lee’s face when it bobbled into the rope for 4, pointless runs vs precious strike, gave me one of my favourite examples of the not quite black-and-white of cricket.
So here’s my stance on the morality of ball-tampering:
Rub saliva and sweat in it to your heart’s content. Effectively these are adding something to the ball, not removing it.
Throw it in on the bounce as much as you like: you risk hitting the shiny side and undoing your hard work keeping it so well polished.
Bowl cross-seam bouncers with the intention of some handy scuffing: exactly as above.
Using grit, sugar granules, or dirt or any sort to deliberately scuff the ball are not acceptable, because you are deliberately removing from the ball, at no risk to your own team (apart from being caught).
It’s no wonder Bancroft put the tape down his trousers, and his name is now the go-to insult in my household for stupid behaviour. What an idiot.