Angus Fraser: Ball tampering? It's no worse than when batsmen don't walk

Inside Cricket

The most important thing to remember about ball tampering is this: it works. This is the principal reason why many in cricket, and they tend to be batsmen, view those who dare to mark or scratch the surface of a cricket ball as evil, morally bankrupt miscreants.

If the careful and skilful movement of a fingernail on a cricket ball made no difference to the way it behaved nobody would give a damn. But that is not the case. A bowler has to be extremely skilful to turn the supposed transgression into wickets but by scratching a cricket ball almost any bowler can get it to swing.

Many, myself included, would say: what is wrong with that? The best and most interesting games of cricket are those where wickets fall at regular intervals and where the balance between bat and ball is equal, not tilted hugely in the favour of batsmen, which is the case on far too many occasions.

Bowlers struggle to come to terms with the way the game reacts to what they believe to be a minor act. They are allowed to maintain the condition of a ball but not increase its rate of deterioration. Strange. Even at the best of times bowlers feel sorry for themselves, believing the Laws are continually amended to make a batsman's life easier and theirs harder, which, of course, they are.

There are also huge inconsistencies in cricket as to what is right or wrong. When a batsman knowingly edges the ball to the keeper and stands his ground it is deemed to be "part of the game". But should a bowler dare to stop the ball with his boot, as Stuart Broad did in Cape Town, he is a cheat. What a load of codswallop.

Historically bowlers are considered to be a bit dopey but they are actually cricket's great innovators. They have had to be to compete, and tinkering with a cricket ball has been one of the ways this goal has been achieved. Tampering, like swine flu, is not a modern problem – it has been around for a number of years.

There are many ways of doing it. The seam of a cricket ball has always been picked, especially on softer, grassier English pitches. The belief is that a prouder seam will make the ball deviate more when it makes contact with these types of pitch.

Swing movement, movement in the air rather than off the pitch, is different. Many years ago Vaseline and sunblock were deliberately applied to a ball to keep one side of it shiny, which helped swing movement. More recently, sugary saliva has been thought to do a better job, which is the reason why modern fielders are always sucking on wine gums, jelly babies and mints. Heaven knows what the dental bills are like.

These types of tampering have been tolerated because they only encourage seam and conventional swing movement, not the dreaded reverse swing. Reverse swing is a dirty word in cricket but, believe it or not, it can occur naturally when matches are played on rough pitches and the outfield is dry. But it can be made to occur at a faster rate through tampering, and because it is guaranteed to be successful and is easier to bowl it is not looked upon as sympathetically.

There are many who believe that, within reason, a bowler should be allowed to do what he likes to a cricket ball. The ball is the implement through which he earns his living and nobody tells a batsman what type of bat he has to use, so long as it meets the Laws of the game.

The problem with allowing bowlers to do what they want to a ball is that "within reason" becomes impossible to police. Nobody would mind if it was just a little scratching and picking that took place. The problem is that if the Law was removed it could result in a fielder standing at mid-off with a Swiss Army Knife in his pocket cutting chunks out of a ball, and this cannot be allowed. On an infamous tour of Pakistan and after taking career-best figures of 7-52, Chris Pringle, the modest New Zealand medium-pacer, admitted that he had used a bottle top to mark a ball when bowling because he believed his opponents had been doing the same.

It hurts me to say it, but the Laws are probably correct and should stay as they are – but the stigma of being caught tampering should be treated in the same manner as a batsman not walking when he has knowingly hit the ball.

I don't know how Onions does it

Continuing the "let's feel sorry for bowlers theme", why is it always bowlers who find themselves in the nerve-racking position Graham Onions has twice on England's tour of South Africa? I was there once, against South Africa at Old Trafford in 1998, and it was horrible.

From the moment you arrive at the ground you know this exact situation may occur and you sit there for hour after hour worrying about it. Partnerships take place and then wickets fall. The sixth wicket falls and you put your whites on, the seventh and it's your thigh guard, chest guard and box. The eighth and on go your pads. Then the ninth wicket goes and off you go. You don't want to enter the arena but you have to. As you leave the dressing room your team-mates wish you luck, but deep down you know they do not have a lot of belief in you as you walk out to the middle. Once there your mouth is dry and you struggle to talk as the opposition continually remind you of the pressure you are under.

Surviving, as Onions has twice, is unbelievably rewarding but failing is devastating. Wrongly, you feel the defeat is your fault.

people'It can last and it's terrifying'
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering