HomeSportsCricketBall Tampering: Cricket’s Controversial Ball Manipulation Cases
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Ball Tampering: Cricket’s Controversial Ball Manipulation Cases

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Ball tampering incidents in cricket history have left indelible marks on the sport, raising questions about fair play, integrity, and the ethical standards upheld by players on the field. These controversies involve attempts by cricketers to alter the condition of the ball, often in pursuit of gaining a competitive advantage. From the subtlety of using fingernails to the notoriety of sandpaper, these incidents have transcended the boundaries of the cricket pitch, affecting the reputation of players, teams, and the game itself. In this exploration, we delve into the annals of cricket history to revisit major ball-tampering incidents that have both shocked and saddened fans, challenging the spirit of the gentleman’s game.

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Major Ball Tampering Incidents in Cricket History

Ball Tampering Incidents
Chris Pringle
Michael Atherton
Waqar Younis
Sachin Tendulkar
Shoaib Akhtar
Rahul Dravid
Stuart Broad
Shahid Afridi
Faf du Plessis
Cameron Bancroft

Chris Pringle 1990

Ball Tampering | KreedOn
Image Source: Sportskeeda

The mild-mannered medium-pacer Chris Pringle escaped punishment even though he acknowledged tampering with the ball shortly after making his test debut in Karachi against Pakistan. Television technology was not quite as advanced as it is now, with the ability to precisely watch every move a player makes on the pitch. Before the International Cricket Council designating match referees, the only arbiters of test matches were the on-field umpires. In the third test at Faisalabad, on a batting-friendly pitch, he claimed a career-high 11 wickets for 152 runs. Later, he disclosed that he had scratched the ball with a bottle cap. As a result of his belief that Pakistani bowlers were also playing with the ball, he tampered with it. Later, Martin Crowe acknowledged, “we weren’t going to accept what they were doing with the ball” even though Pakistan was a better team.

Michael Atherton 1994

Ball Tampering | KreedOn
Image Source: Fox Sports

England’s captain Michael Atherton was caught on camera using dirt he’d taken from the pitch and put in his pocket on the ball during the “dirt in the pocket” incident. The ICC match referee, Peter Burge, did not censure or reprimand Atherton, but the England Cricket Board took the harsher step of fining him. It was one of the worst points of his career. However, Atherton, who is working as an analyst for England on their two-test tour of New Zealand this month, has shown sympathy for Australia’s current captain, calling demands for Smith to be banned for life “ridiculous.”

Waqar Younis 2000

Waqar Younis | KreedOn
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Waqar Younis, a Pakistani fast bowler, became the first player to be fined and punished for ball tampering, eight years after the British media first accused a series against England. Following a limited-overs international match in Sri Lanka, when Waqar, known for his incredible swing, was found guilty of ball tampering, New Zealand match referee John Reid penalized him 50% of his match money. During the Singer Cup one-day match, Bangladeshi all-rounder Azhar Mehmood and captain Moin Khan received 30% fines. Reid examined video evidence that appeared to show Waqar scratching one side of the ball with his fingernails. Waqar escaped punishment after Reid admonished him for ball-tampering during a test match earlier in the competition against Sri Lanka. In that instance, Waqar and team officials successfully claimed that the bowler was attempting to clear particles from the ball.

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Sachin Tendulkar 2001

Sachin Tendulkar - Ball Tampering | KreedOn
Image Source: InsideSport

During the second test against South Africa in Port Elizabeth, match referee Mike Denness was in the hot seat, penalizing five Indian players for excessive pleading and sanctioning Sachin Tendulkar for ball tampering. Tendulkar was caught on camera cleaning the seam of the ball, but because he hadn’t informed the umpires, it fell within the restrictions for changing the condition of the ball. The claim swiftly sparked outrage in India, where Tendulkar is still regarded as the uncontested king of cricket. After a comprehensive investigation, the ICC lifted Tendulkar’s suspended one-game punishment.

Shoaib Akhtar 2003

Shoaib Akhtar - Ball Tampering | KreedOn
Image Source: Daily Mail

Shoaib Akhtar, a fiery fast bowler, was given a two-match, one-day international suspension for scuffing the ball during a match in Sri Lanka versus New Zealand. In a later chapter of “Controversially Yours,” Akhtar acknowledged that the hot and muggy conditions at Dambulla, along with the sluggish wicket, drove him to get frantic and “began fussing with the ball.” Akhtar said that he was aware that it was against the law and not anything to be arrogant about. He also acknowledged that, throughout his playing career, he had frequently interfered with the ball. “I can’t help it. I have to use the ball in some way”. Akhtar also said that “I won’t lie about it, even though I know this will create a lot of fuss.”

Rahul Dravid 2004

Rahul Dravid fined for ball-tampering | KreedOn
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Rahul Dravid, dubbed “The Wall” for his unrelenting style of batting, was seen on camera applying a lozenge to the ball during a one-day international against Zimbabwe in Australia. Clive Lloyd, the match referee, stated that the TV video demonstrated that the Indian captain purposely applied the lozenge to the ball, in violation of the code of conduct. A fine of 50% of his match fee was imposed on him after he was found guilty.

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Pakistan 2006

Pakistan team involved in Ball Tampering | KreedOn
Image Source: The Indian Express

The Pakistan players, though, claimed the ball hadn’t been tampered with during the interval. After 15 minutes of waiting in the middle, umpires awarded the victory to England after they refused to take the field. The umpires informed Pakistani players that the match was over by the time they returned to the field. It’s not known what alleged tampering was committed by umpire Hair, according to Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq. A test match was decided in this way for the first time in the history of so-called gentleman’s games.

Stuart Broad 2010

Stuart Broad | KreedOn
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During a test match against South Africa in Cape Town, the England fast bowler seemed to tread on the ball with the spikes of his boot, prompting charges of ball tampering. Stuart Broad used his foot to halt a rolling ball before stepping on it. He said he was tired from the intense heat and denied interfering with the ball. Despite South African objections, no official charges were filed. As a former England captain, Nasser Hussain stated he did not doubt that the fast bowler made a mistake, and “if a player from another country had done the same, we would have called it cheating.

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Shahid Afridi 2010

Shahid Afridi | KreedOn
Image Source: Inshorts

After seeming to bite the ball twice during his team’s two-wicket loss against Australia in Perth, Shahid Afridi was suspended for two one-day internationals. As a result, Afridi was informed about the incident by the TV umpire, and the ball was changed by the on-field umpires. After the match, Afridi was summoned by match referee Ranjan Madugalle and pleaded guilty to the charge. He apologized and expressed sorrow for the event. No team in the world does not tamper with the ball, but Afridi said his methods were wrong, he was embarrassed, he should not have done it. Just winning a game was all that I wanted, but this wasn’t the right way to go about it.”

Faf du Plessis 2016

Faf du Plessis | KreedOn
Image Source: The Guardian

For tampering with the ball during the second test against Australia, the captain of South Africa Faf du Plessis received three demerit points in addition to a 100% match fine. According to a television video, Faf du Plessis would insert his fingers in his mouth, sucking on sweets, and then use his saliva to shine the ball. In a Pakistani match in 2013, he was punished for scuffing the ball on his pants’ zip.

Cameron Bancroft 2018

Cameron Bancroft | KreedOn
Image Source: Cricket365

Australia’s Cameron Bancroft was caught on camera massaging the ball during the third test against South Africa. He did id using a yellow device and then hid it in his pants. A number of elite Australian players orchestrated the tampering, as skipper Steve Smith and batsman Bancroft admitted during the day’s press conference. As captain and vice-captain, respectively, Warner and Smith stepped down. While Bancroft was fined seventy-five percent, Smith was banned by the ICC for one test and fined 100% of his match fee. This incident is also known as “Sandpaper Saga” or “Sandpaper Gate”.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the purpose of ball tampering?

Ball tampering is primarily done to alter the aerodynamics of the ball, resulting in increased swing while in the air. The intention behind this is to create difficulties for the batsmen in playing their shots and enhance the likelihood of dismissing them.

How is ball tampering done? 

Different techniques of ball tampering include applying foreign substances (e.g., saliva, lip balm, sandpaper), altering the seam, rubbing the ball on the ground, or using sharp objects (e.g., bottle cap, nail, zipper) to damage its surface.

What are the rules for ball tampering?

As per the Laws of Cricket, the ball can be polished naturally, dried with a towel if wet, and have mud removed under supervision. Any other actions that change the ball’s condition are considered illegal.

What are the penalties for ball tampering?

In response to ball tampering, umpires can give the batting team five penalty runs, replace the ball with a similar one, and report the incident to the match referee. The match referee has the authority to impose additional penalties on the players involved, including fines, suspensions, or bans.

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