Ball tampering reared its ugly head once again in a Test match involving Pakistan but for a change, the player who has been caught in the eye of the storm is not a Pakistani cricketer. The incident happened on the 3rd day of the second Test match between South Africa and Pakistan in Dubai, when South African batsman (South Africa were fielding at the time) Faf du Plessis was caught trying to roughen up the ball by rubbing against the zipper in his trousers. The incident was captured by the television cameras and the incident was immediately conveyed to the on field umpires by the 3rd umpire.
In such a situation, the umpires do not have to warn the offending player according to the rules of the game and hence the umpires- Ian Gould and Rod Tucker- fined the South Africans 5 penalty runs after a short discussion with captain Greame Smith. The ball was also changed. Apparently, “Du Plessis was charged with an article 2.2.9 offence of the ICC Code of Conduct which relates to ‘changing the condition of the ball in breach of Law 42.3 of the Laws of Cricket, as modified by ICC Standard Test Match, ODI and Twenty20 International Match Playing Conditions clause 42.1’”. Du Plessis pleaded guilty and was fined a percentage of his match fees by the match referee David Boon of Australia.
However, the biggest question that remains is that how many times cricketers have actually got away with something that can best be described as cheating and if a TV camera does not capture the incident as clearly as it did in case of Du Plessis or Afridi, when he was caught sinking his teeth into the seam, it can be assumed that ball tampering is rampant.
In addition to that, South Africa were in a fairly comfortable position on the third day and a victory was almost assured, which is why it is even more baffling as to why Faf du Plessis resorted to such an act. Imagine what goes on, when the opposition are on top and the going not as comfortable? Do they pick at the seam, rough up one side of the ball with the help of their zippers or keep dirt in their pocket like former England captain Mike Atherton?
As a matter of fact, former South African great Allan Donald has been a vocal advocate of ball tampering and has asked for it to be legalised so that the bowlers have something to fall back on. If that is the case, then batsmen should also be allowed to bat with wider bats. However, I digress. The matter has been dealt with in a most professional way by the officials and in that regard they must be given due credit.
However, A B DeVilliers’ announcement of ‘we’re not cheats’ sounds hollow and the ‘we’ might not be the South African cricket team but cricketers at large.