Ball Tampering in Cricket- Explained, Methods, History

Cricket has always been the gentleman’s game and maintains its pride in fair play and sportsmanship. The ball tampering in cricket refers to altering the ball’s conditions to gain an unfair advantage. It involves unfair methods like scratching with sandpaper and applying saliva or tape to change the ball’s surface.

Many cricketers believe that tampering with the ball can help bowlers grab more wickets and restrict the opponent team’s score. Especially, in high-pressure situations unfair methods by breaking the rules can be tempting options to win the game.

However, the umpires and match officials minutely observe the ball conditions throughout the game. Their experience and observation help detect irregularities like roughness or change in colour.

As a cricket fan, it is important to know the methods of ball tampering in cricket, the severe consequences and its history.

Common Methods of ball tampering in cricket

These are the 5 common methods every player uses for ball tampering in cricket:

1. Scratching with fingernails:

Players normally scratch with fingernails to obtain a reverse swing on the ball.

Usually, players rub the ball with their hands, between or on the trousers. In a few instances, the fingernails get poked on the surface. As a result, it disintegrates as well as reduces its weight substantially.

Though it is a smart method of ball tampering in cricket, players can get boycotted for such unethical activities.

2. Applying Foreign Substances :

Various foreign objects like lip balm, petroleum jelly, or even sunscreen when applied to the ball change its grip and make it deviate from its original nature.

Players often apply lip balm and sunscreen when playing on the field and apply some of them onto the ball to maintain its shining ness. Also, it becomes impossible for the umpires to question the players since these substances get mixed with the sweat which lures them to apply on the ball. 

3. Other sharp objects:

Using many other sharp objects like zippers, or even sandpaper is another method of ball tampering in cricket known as “scuffing” to create rough patches. The roughness makes it difficult for any batsman to judge the ball’s movement.

4. Using Saliva:

A few players use saliva on the ball to make sure its shine lasts longer. Mint and saliva mixed stays for a long time which helps bowlers to generate swing.

5. Applying Sweat:

Many players have started applying sweat on the ball after the ICC strictly prohibited the use of saliva after the COVID-19 pandemic. The sweat displaces the deep-lying grease to make the ball shine and heavier.

Consequences of Ball Tampering in Cricket

A player and his team have to face severe consequences if they are caught in the ball-tampering scandal.

As a result, the cricket authorities might take several disciplinary actions both on-field and off-field which include:

  • Awarding 5 runs to the opponent team in the form of a penalty.
  • Imposing fines of 50% to 100% of the match fee depending upon the level of offence.
  • Suspension for a specific period — up to 1 year.
  • Ban for a specific number of matches
  • Leadership Ban
  • And many more…

History of Ball Tampering in Cricket

The history of ball tampering began in the early 1800s when players used different methods to win a cricket match. It includes applying sweat, saliva, and dirt to their dress to manipulate the condition of a cricket ball. There are several instances of ball tampering out of which a few possible and famous ones could be listed.

But, it was in the 1900s when the ball-tampering scandals exploded to an unexpected level. The higher authorities caught various cricketers red-handedly for tampering with the ball in cricket to generate higher or reverse swings.

In 1932, Harold Larwood– an England bowler, used his fingernails to scuff the ball. But, the officials couldn’t find him guilty. Rather, the relationship between England and the Australian cricket team soured.

In 1962, Neil Harvey– an Australian batsman, used saliva to shine one side and his sweat on the other side of the ball. Though the ball gave a huge movement to swing, the match officials banned Harvey for the rest of the game.

In 1994, Michael Atherton– an England cricketer, used the dirt in his pocket to maintain the ball’s lustre.

In 2000, Pakistan fast bowler Waqar Younis became the first player to undergo suspension for tampering with the ball. Also, he had to pay a 50% fine from his match fee.

In 2001, the match referee Mike Denness banned Sachin Tendulkar for a single match on the charges of ball tampering.

In 2018, Australian captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner involved themselves in the ball-tampering scandal, also known as the “Sandpaper Gate”. However, the ICC banned these two cricketers for 12 months. Moreover, Steve Smith had to pay 100% of his match fee as a fine.

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