Cricket: Imran admits cheating: Glenn Moore on the book throwing light on a touchy subject

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THE immediate legacy of Imran Khan's admission that he tampered with the ball to the extent of using a bottle top will be a further blighting of his Pakistan Test successors, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. They may well be the only individual casualties, though cricket's reputation and Anglo-Pakistani relations will hardly be enhanced.

1 Though Imran, in a forthcoming biography, does not appear to have incriminated the pair, they are so closely associated with him - their joint biography was sub-titled 'Imran's Inheritors' - that his revelations can only revive the furore created by Allan Lamb's allegations against them in 1992.

Then he accused the pair of tampering with the ball during the summer series with England. With the Test and County Cricket Board refusing to release pertinent evidence and a High Court case brought by the former Pakistan bowler Sarfraz Nawaz dropped in mid-trial, the allegations went untested.

While Lamb was fined heavily, Imran, retired and a figure of near-mythical status in his own country, is effectively beyond sanction. Neither are the revelations likely to lead to censure against Pakistan, for it is not alleged that his actions were condoned by the country's cricket authorities.

Indeed, the most startling admission so far released concerns a county match between Sussex and Hampshire in 1991. 'The ball was not deviating at all,' Imran is quoted as saying. 'So I got the 12th man to bring on a bottle top and it started to move around a lot. I occasionally scratched the side (of the ball) and lifted the seam.'

This contravenes Law 42.4 (lifting the seam) and 42.5 (changing condition of the ball) but, quite clearly, Imran was not the only Sussex player aware of the illegality of his own actions.

Imran, who took 362 Test wickets, also admits to lifting the seam, a practice he alleges - and with some justification - is rife in England. So, too, is treating the ball with an illegal substance such as lanolin or Vaseline to get extra swing. What, he argues, is the difference?

He has a point, though whether his admission is to relieve the burden of guilt, to expose the hypocrisy surrounding the subject, or to sell a few more books is a moot point. But what now for the International Cricket Council?

Retrospective action is fraught with difficulty and possibly pointless. Instead, the ICC must decide whether it is serious about ending tampering and thus hammer the first culprit they find or, given the remorseless advance in batting equipment, allow bowlers some leeway - if not with bottle tops, at least with their hands.