Cricket: Bedi may sue over ball allegations

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MIKE ATHERTON will today tell the world why he is carrying on as the captain of England. Atherton last night asked his county, Lancashire, to organise a news conference at Old Trafford. 'He wants to make a statement and clear the air,' Richard Little, the Test and County Cricket Board spokesman, said.

Atherton has been under enormous pressure to resign following the alledged ball- tampering affair during the First Test against the South Africa at Lord's last weekend. But he is determined to carry on - and will today emerge from hiding to face his critics.

Atherton has been supported throughout by Ray Illingworth, the chairman of selectors, and senior officials of the Test and County Cricktet board. Their backing has convinced him he can remain at his post, even though there have been widespread calls from outside the game's establishment for him to resign.

Atherton was fined pounds 2,000 by Illingworth last Sunday for having dirt in his pocket and failing to inform the match referee Peter Burge of that fact during an inquiry into ball-tampering inquiry at Lord's.

BISHEN BEDI, the former Indian captain, was involved in a new ball-tampering controversy yesterday. Bedi is threatening to sue an Australian newspaper, according to reports from New Delhi, which published accusations that he illicitly rubbed dirt into the ball.

Bedi claims his reputation was damaged by an article in the Melbourne Age three days ago in which he was compared with Mike Atherton, who is also embroiled in a ball-tampering row.

The newspaper's cricket writer alleged that Bedi rubbed dirt on the ball before bowling his left-arm spin. The England captain has been accused of using dirt in his pocket to work on the ball, though his claim is that he merely used it to dry his fingers.

'Rubbing dirt on to a cricket ball in a Test is a crime, but not necessarily a capital one,' the article stated. 'India's Bishen Bedi used to do it regularly and was rarely admonished.'

Bedi, who took 266 wickets in 67 Tests, said the charge was malicious and baseless. 'This one little paragraph attempts to negate all that I have achieved.'

A New Delhi-based law firm representing the player is demanding dollars 100,000 ( pounds 67,000) compensation for the damage to Bedi's reputation 'and for the grave shock and mental agony caused.'

Bedi, 47, added: 'I used to keep the ball in my right hand and rub my left hand on the ground and then wipe that hand clean on my trousers. If the ball was new or the conditions were humid, it became difficult to grip the ball. Because of this I kept my hands totally dry. But I never rubbed anything on the ball, never kept anything in my trouser pockets.'