Dear Imran Khan: Everybody's doing it: an ex-Test bowler and self-confessed ball-tamperer, now cricket correspondent for the Independent on Sunday, salutes the former captain of Pakistan for bowling a straight one

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Salaam aleikum. Well, well, well: I see you have at last decided to emerge from the ball-tampering closet, albeit only toe first. This is indeed a brave thing for a man in your position to do. By admitting to this, your image as the noble Pathan may be irretrievably damaged (certainly in the eyes of some of the more hysterical English media) and some people will brand you as possessing all the skulduggery of a Karachi Mohajir.

Don't listen to them. But are you sure you aren't just teasing us when you tell us you only tried it once - when you used a bottle-top to achieve reverse swing in a county game way back in 1981? We all know that everything comes in cans now, so why in the face of recent claims by your one-time team-mate Younis Ahmed need you feel so coy about carrying one?

As an admirer of your bowling - in particular that splendid Nureyev-like leap just prior to delivery - I have never regarded ball tampering as a heinous crime. I was one of the brethren, after all (a bowler who has tampered and admitted it). In fact I regard ball tampering as nothing more serious than a batsman who edges the ball to the wicketkeeper and stands his ground - something nearly everyone tries on these days. After all, umpires are there to make decisions, so why can't they decide if someone has been fiddling with the ball as well? Naturally I can understand anyone having reservations towards admitting occasions of ball tampering - if indeed they did occur - when playing for his country. Pakistan means 'land of the pure', and any action less clean than the driven snows of the Karakoram Pass can often be met with great disappointment.

Should it turn out that these other claims do have some substance to them, I'm sure there won't be a fatwa if further revelations about ball tampering were to come to light. A dog fight with Younis Ahmed in the courts is the last thing any of us would want. After all, cricket is only a game and a few indiscretions - should they exist - will not mar the great good you are doing by raising funds for Pakistan's first cancer hospital.

With your ability to flit effortlessly between East and West - equally at home with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the great qawwali singer, and the Rolling Stones - you are ideally placed to be able to bring Pakistan and England closer together. By admitting to a solitary incident of ball tampering, you have at least confronted those who are always ready to blame Pakistanis for many of cricket's problems. Should there be any more skeletons lurking in the closet - and only you can tell us - I urge you to cast them out as quickly as possible, for unsubstantiated rumour and suspicion do little but perpetuate the already well entrenched cultural divisions between our two countries. And that is something only the BNP would have a vested interest in.

Yours in admiration,

Derek Pringle

(Photograph omitted)

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