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Cricket has been played traditionally with a red ball; then came white and now we have the pink one. Has cricket changed? From a 5 day test match with an additional day of rest, now we play for five days continuously. We had one day matches with sixty overs now it is fifty. We also had the Kerry Packer series of night cricket. Now is 20-20 time. Umpteen rules have changed with time, technology has taken over. Cricket as a game has been evolving.
I remember as a school kid we used to go and witness matches of North Zone versus West Indies/ England at Jalandhar. I used to be fascinated by the red colour on the pants of fast bowlers along their zips. I used to wonder why we need to clean the ball so vigorously. I was unaware that the bowlers used to shine only one side of the ball. Wasn’t that a kind of tempering? While playing for the school as an off spinner I used to rub both sides, at least batsmen would not complain of a dirty ball being bowled at him.
Do you guys remember a game called “French Cricket”. You drew a small circle and stood inside as a batsman. Bowling was done under arm, feet had to be together and you could not move or turn once you took a stance. Ball hitting below the knees was out. One bounce you were out, caught. Runs were rotating your bat around your body before the next ball was bowled. It was improvisation in cricket at its best. It was also the fastest and most intense cricket I had ever played.
I remember our school wicket keeper used to pass the ball to the slips, who in turn used to pass it to cover or mid off and then to the bowler. Except for the keeper all used to rub it on their pants. My mom used get very annoyed.  She used to curse the ball manufacturers for using third class dyes. She never could understand the pride in us to have our white pants red. I can also never forget the smell of a fresh new ball just out of its box.
Bowlers have been using their sweat to moisten the ball on one side or to make it rough and heavy for air resistance to alter its swing. They use dew on the grass to dis-balance the ball too. They also apply soil or spit for a better grip. Is it not tempering?
I am of the opinion that let teams use any substance to alter the aerodynamics of the ball. The same ball should be given to the opponents after the same number of overs as a penalty. Both will be on equal footing. Why should we penalise the captain or the team, let us make tempering official.
Today, with so many cameras on you, there is no way one can hide. Poor Srishant tucked his towel which cost him his career. Definitely this dirty bookie business is something obnoxious. I can assure you, for any bowler, it is not easy to bowl a no-ball if he is in his rhythm. To predict that on a particular ball of an over the bowler will bowl a no-ball and the batsmen will hit at midwicket and the fielder will drop the catch. Quiet impossible! At the national level, how can someone stoop that low? Money does make a mare go alright but selling your conscience for money is food for thought.
Why then make a hue and cry about Harbahajan and Murlidharan for their bowling actions? If the ball can be tempered with, so should the bowling action and even the batting stance. Why have fielders in those typical positions, just place them at random. I remember once I saw a test match recording, there were nine slips. Why have an umpire, the cameras should do the trick or have a robot with DRS facility placed instead.
Ball tempering has also evolved over the ages. From bowlers using Vaseline, to now they are using sand paper. People like Afridi even tried to chew the seams of the ball. In-swing and Out-swing are passé, now we have reverse swing. Off break and leg break are old fashioned. The Googly and China man were a challenge to play earlier. Now we have the doosra. Time has come to move away from the traditional “Caught Knott-Bowled Old”.
So let’s have cricket with a Teesra. I will leave the batsmen to innovate something new & better than the upper-cut, Viru style and the helicopter shot, Dhoni style. Then we shall see who the actual winner is. Will any country be able to beat India? I wonder!!!!!!!!!
JAI HIND
© Noel Ellis