Controversial Pakistani speedster Shoaib Akhtar has created a flutter by openly admitting that he, along with all his contemporaries in the team, have regularly indulged in ball-tampering.
Pakistan fast bowlers over generations have always been under scanner for ball-tampering whenever they have got the ball to swing more than usual but Akhtar is the first to admit that he indulged in the malpractice, which is banned in international cricket.
“Almost all Pakistani fast bowlers have tampered with the ball. I may be the first one to openly admit to it but everybody is doing it,” the maverick fast bowler has revealed in his just-published autobiography “Controversially Yours.”
“To be honest, every team in the world tampers with the ball. We probably started it but today koi team doodh ki dhooli nahin hain. No team is innocent and virtually every fast bowler does it. That is the only way to survive because the wickets are so slow.”
Akhtar, who was twice suspended by ICC for ball tampering during his career, defends the speed merchants for indulging in this illegal cricketing activity.
“After years of not allowing bouncers, in 2001, the ICC ruled that only one would be allowed per over. The pitches are dead and slow and made to order for batting. It’s the bowlers who are curtailed. It’s like giving match practice to people. We are hit all over the ground,” he lamented in his book.
In his tell-all book, Akhtar cited examples of how he had indulged in doctoring the ball during his playing career. It was in a three-nation tournament in Sri Lanka after 2003 World Cup, the bowler recalled an incident in Dambulla while playing against New Zealand.
“I remember it being very hot and humid in Dambulla and, as is customary with the pitches of the sub-continent, it was an awfully slow track. We were playing New Zealand, we needed results. Out of desperation, I began fussing with the ball.
Yes, for those of you who want to know, I did tamper with the ball in that match. And yes I know it’s against the rules and not something to be proud of - I aplogised for it,” Akhtar wrote.
Not only this, Akhtar was candid in admitting that he has.
“tampered with the ball on many occasions.”
“I have tampered with the ball on many occasions. Have been warned several times and even being caught twice - Dambulla was one such instance. I was suspended for a match and fined 75 per cent of the match fees,” he said in the book.
But Akhtar also confessed that it had slowly become a habit.
“I can’t seem to help it. I have got to do something with the ball. I know this will make a big noise but I won’t lie about it.”
Not only about his own antics but Akhtar also revealed the secret of an unnamed Pakistan cricketer who actually changed a ball in order to get more reverse swing going.
“I won’t name him but one Pakistani cricketer actually switched the ball in the umpires’ pocket with one that reversed like crazy. Umpires usually keep the ball in their coat pockets and then hang their coat up for lunch. That was when the transfer occurred. After this incident, they now leave their coats in a locked room.”
Akhtar then gives a detailed account of how one can doctor the ball and asked ICC to at least legalise scuffing the seam with nails!
“There are so many ways to prepare the ball; it’s not just a matter of scratching it. I have used my boot nails and zip of my back pocket. Many bowlers, use vaseline or gum on the ball. The only way to stop this is for the ICC to ensure that at least some pitches are prepared in favour of bowlers.”
“That would make the game less one-sided and more balanced. The game, especially now, has become very unequal and only favours the batsman - if you bowl a no-ball, the batsman gets a free-hit; bouncers have been curtailed; and a bowler can’t even touch his hair before picking up the ball”, he wrote.
“They have restricted us so mercilessly, that I find it very difficult to feel entirely guilty about ball tampering.”
He further added, “Since, we can’t seem to stop doing it, may be it’s not a bad idea to legalise it and set rules for it. After all, it’s still an art to use that ball. You need the pace and skill. Not everyone can do it. Perhaps some manipulation of the ball, like scratching it with your nails could be legally allowed. I know I am going to get it in the neck for saying all this.”