If throwing or chucking is considered to be illegal because it gives a bowler an unfair advantage, then ball tampering must be considered a far more sinister crime, for it gives ALL THE BOWLERS an unfair advantage. It never will be conclusively proven, but the fact remains that, with a tampered-with ball, South Africa clearly enjoyed greater than normal reverse swing during Sri Lanka’s second innings. While we’d never know ‘what would have been’, perhaps another 100 runs on the first innings would have helped Sri Lanka draw this test, or even win it. With ball tampering creating such doubt on the legitimacy of the outcome of a test match, leniency in ICC rules that allowed Philander to get away with a miserly fine of 75% of his match fees is inexplicable.
Ball tampering, unlike throwing, is somewhat easier to identify and confirm during a match, if not in real-time. ICC should look in to introducing measures and rules to identify and impose severe punishment on offenders of ball tampering. Perhaps broadcasters too should be held responsible for reporting certain events and actions to match officials immediately. Perhaps the role of the third umpire should extend to include being vigilant of ball tampering. Perhaps all of this could be made less complex and even avoided if the ICC would impose penalty that includes banning offenders from certain number of matches and possibly for life if repeated.
Another thought that should be entertained is ‘who else is responsible for ball tampering?’. Should the captain be held responsible? Should the coaching staff be held responsible? Should the management or cricket board be held responsible? In the case of throwing, it is extremely hard to prove that one is intentionally throwing the ball, especially when the straightening is minimal. Often the fault is attributed to poor coaching during the players junior years or to physical limitations. It can be argued that throwing is an innocent crime. As such, the punishment stops with the individual bowler. In the case of ball tampering, the evidence can be overwhelming. In Philander’s case, he was even seen hiding the ball with one hand while tampering it with the other. Although ball tampering is clearly an intentional offense, it is still hard to prove that anyone other than the offender was involved in it. However, to allow that be a reason to only punish one individual for a crime that an entire bowling unit, if not the team through the end result, benefits from seems rather lenient as well. Therefore, a punishment that has far significant consequence to the ‘team’ is warranted. In that regard, the individual who is ultimately responsible for the entire team’s on field conduct, the captain, should be the one to take responsibility, even if not a direct party to the crime.
Fans should never be left wondering if the outcome of the match they just watched was legit or a fair result. Match fixing and spot fixing had threatened the ‘dignity’ of this great sport. What cricket does not need is more temptation for cheating. Ball tampering must be treated as equally wrong as match fixing and punished appropriately!