Ball-tampering and match-fixing are commodities that most Caribbean cricket lovers have read as having occurred across the vast oceans and far removed from this region. We have felt justly proud that while the names of Indians, Pakistanis, Aussies, Kiwis, South Africans, Sri Lankans, Englishmen and Bangladeshis, have from time to time been accused, admitted or convicted of these infractions, our players have generally escaped being accused of such indiscretions.
Former West Indies batsman Marlon Samuels has been the exception to the rule, where more than a decade ago, he was convicted after getting caught sharing team information in exchange for money with a bookie before the first One-Day International in Nagpur on January 21, 2007. His actions led to a subsequent two-year ban. Thankfully, no other West Indian international cricketer has been accused or convicted of such dishonest behaviour.
However, ball-tampering, many suggest, is widespread at the domestic level in several, if not all, cricket-playing nations. And, often it makes its way on to the international stage. We Caribbean people have not had a culture of ball-tampering, or perhaps more accurately, we have not had a history of being caught tampering with the ball at the international level. Some years ago after being caught biting the ball and being charged with violating Article 2.14 of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) code of conduct related to changing the condition of the ball, former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi had this to say: “There is no team in the world that doesn’t tamper with the ball.”
In addition to Afridi, some of the greats of the game have been cited for ball-tampering, inclusive of former England captain Michael Atherton who was fined in 1994; Sachin Tendulkar who was suspended for one game in 2001; Pakistan captain Inzamam ul-Haq, banned for four matches in 2006; South African captain Faf du Plessis fined in 2013 and 2016; and last year’s much-publicized case involving Australian captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and rookie opener Cameron Bancroft. In 2018, in St Lucia, Sri Lankan captain Dinesh Chandimal was charged for ball-tampering. Add to the list of cheaters Waqar Younis (2000); Shoaib Akhtar (2002 & 2003); Rahul Dravid (2004); Vernon Philander (2014).
Former New Zealand wicketkeeper Adam Parore once admitted that in 1990 his Kiwis used bottle tops to scuff up the ball to increase its propensity to swing. Teammate Chris Pringle took 11 wickets against Pakistan in the match as a result. So it seems Afridi might have been brutally correct. Every international side tampers with the ball. And if we innocently believed or dreamt that West Indies teams were insulated from such unfair conduct then our own Nicholas Pooran shattered that illusion during the third One-Day International against Afghanistan in Lucknow, India, on Monday. It might be a case that our naiveté has been undermined not so much by Pooran’s tampering with the ball, but some might suggest, by him getting exposed. After all, deep down in our cricketing psyche, many of us believe what Afridi has said.
It is perhaps instructive, though, that in most, if not all instances of reported ball-tampering, it is the visiting team that is mostly exposed. Seldom, it seems, do those manning the cameras at cricketing grounds catch the home side tampering with the ball.
Pooran is one of our brightest prospects, and we hope he learns from this experience. His conduct was wrong and has tainted the overwhelming results achieved against the Afghans. But Pooran has admitted his error and accepted his punishment. “I want to issue a sincere apology to my teammates, supporters and the Afghanistan team for what transpired on the field of play on Monday in Lucknow,” he said in a statement today. “I recognise that I made an extreme error in judgement and I fully accept the ICC penalty. I want to assure everyone that this is an isolated incident and it will not be repeated. I promise to learn from this and come back stronger and wiser.” We sincerely hope he does. We also innocently accept the incident was an isolated one. We also earnestly hope that the four-game suspension by the ICC brings the embarrassment to a close and that Cricket West Indies (CWI) does not feel it duty-bound to add further sanction to the young man.
Today, CWI president Ricky Skerritt described Pooran as a young player who had made a grave error of judgement. “He will suffer the penalty and will be missed from the team as a result. I am confident that this situation will be used by Pooran, and all concerned in CWI, as a learning experience,” he said in a statement.
Does this mark the first and last occasion that a West Indian international tampers with a cricket ball? Or, perhaps, the question should be, does this mark the first and last occasion a West Indian international is caught tampering with the cricket ball? We can offer no answer to either. Suffice to say, that where there are balls, there is always the possibility of tampering and giving truth to Afridi’s assertion.