Sports Letters: Your reaction to the Michael Atherton affair

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your cricket correspondent, Martin Johnson, is being at best naive, at worst disingenuous in believing Mike Atherton's explanation for carrying dirt in his pocket.

Johnson claims Atherton used to carry a pocketful of dirt in order to keep his hands dry when he bowled for Lancashire, a back injury preventing him from the more orthodox manner of bending over to use the grass. I think this explanation beggars belief as most people would utilise the absorbent qualities of their clothing.

The television pictures clearly show someone not drying their hands but surreptitiously attempting to rub grit into the ball. That Peter Burge, the match referee, and neither umpire could detect any damage to the ball reflects, in my view, only on Atherton's incompetence at ball tampering, mirroring England's incompetence on the field. That all authorities concerned have accepted Atherton's ludicrous explanation while ignoring his obvious intent smacks of complicity, perhaps borne of desperation.