Cricket: Lord's to mollify Indians

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The Independent Online
THE thorny issue of doctored cricket balls appears to be rumbling on beyond this summer's troubled series against Pakistan and on to this winter's England tour to India.

Indian Cricket Board officials are reported to be frothing at a reference in David Gower's autobiography over alleged ball-tampering during the 1990 Test series between England and India.

It is such a transient comment that the entire reference is done and dusted in 39 of the book's 92,000 words, and was made long before the issue gained its current notoriety through a combination of two umpires changing a ball and the International Cricket Council's subsequent application of a can of petrol to a small fire by closing their eyes and hoping it would go away.

Gower wrote that 'although the opposition's efforts to make the ball wobble around did not preclude some surreptitious scuffing- up on one side of the ball, this was quickly snuffed out by the former Fraud Squad officer, now Test match umpire, Nigel Plews'.

Although the book was vetted by the Test and County Cricket Board censors, this passage was then deemed innocuous enough to remain untouched. However, by the time the book was published, ball- tampering had become such a political hot potato that the ICC's attempts to grasp it had left them with third-degree finger burns, and Gower's comments were seized upon and relayed to India.

International cricket being one of the better known examples of sport and politics not only mixing, but mixing like nitro-glycerine and a match, there is already talk of the winter tour being in jeopardy.

However, TCCB officials are writing to the Indian Board outlining the brief and non-malicious nature of Gower's comment, plus the unfortunate timing.

As for this business affecting Gower's prospects of inclusion in the winter tour party, it ought to have no relevance at all, and it is believed that Gower already has Gooch's vote when the selectors meet at the weekend.

Meanwhile, Allan Lamb, fined and suspended by Northamptonshire for allegations made against Pakistan in a newspaper article, is in no danger of missing Saturday's NatWest Cup final against Leicestershire. The TCCB is to hold a separate disciplinary inquiry, but not until the end of the season.

There is still the question of whether Lamb's comments will land him in court, although it is now widely known that the ball change during the Texaco Trophy game at Lord's was indeed made under Law 42 (Unfair Play).

A senior Lord's official who was present during the ball-change discussions has already indicated that he would give evidence to that effect, and it is also known that the umpires informed the England dressing-room that the ball had been changed under Law 42. The word used was 'tampering'.

As for the ball itself, it remains under lock and key at Lord's, and it would be a surprise if - when this business finally blows over - it is not then incinerated. Unlike the Ashes, its final resting place will be in a dustbin rather than the Lord's museum.

Pakistan's cricket team have authorised their lawyers to begin legal action against two British newspapers, the Daily Mirror and Sunday Telegraph, for articles alleging ball-tampering by Pakistani bowlers. The tour manager, Khalid Mahmoud, yesterday claimed the articles were libellous.