Aamir Sohail has opened a new can of worms by alleging that former Pakistan skipper Imran Khan is responsible for the shabby state of affairs that the cricket team finds itself in. In Aamir’s own words, “Imran damaged Pakistan cricket by encouraging our bowlers to tamper with the ball. This has led to a culture where we can't produce good new ball bowlers or quality openers.” While this is not the first time that players from Pakistan have been accused of ball tampering – a few of them have indirectly admitted to the same, the attack on such a great name from the country, and that too from a former teammate, is nothing short of shocking.
The question one needs to ask here though is that if Sohail indeed believed that his former skipper Imran encouraged bowlers to tamper with the ball, why was he quiet all these years? He should have spoken up long before and not now when the alleged repercussions are taking place. Remember, Imran retired from international cricket way back in 1992, after Pakistan created history by winning the World Cup. Sohail was a member of that outfit as well. Wasn’t he aware of things back then?
By directly accusing Imran of destroying Pakistan cricket by encouraging bowlers to alter the condition of the ball, Sohail is implying that greats like Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis achieved greater success because of their ‘ability’ to tamper with the ball. If not true, this is a highly unfair accusation on two legends of the game, who made life difficult for batsmen around the world with their splendid exhibition of reverse swing. Above all, it is a big insult to Imran, the man who actually gave the nation their biggest cricketing triumph.
In fast bowling, there is a very fine line between reverse swing achieved through legal means and the one achieved via altering the condition of the ball. Thus, it wasn’t surprising when a couple of years back maverick former Pakistan speedster Shoaib Akhtar openly admitted that almost all Pakistan fast bowlers have tampered with the ball in some manner or the other. Unlike Sohail, he did not mention any specific names. Such allegations are highly damaging to world cricket, and cricket in Pakistan, in particular, which already is in tatters. Hence, ex-players need to think twice before making allegations especially on ball tampering.
The ICC itself must define more succinctly what amounts to ball tampering and what doesn’t. As of now, the players seem completely in a lurch. South African skipper’s statement that ‘England bowlers somehow manage to reverse the ball quicker than overs’ is a clear reflection of the confused mindset of players over the issue. As it is a lot of worries are dogging the game at the moment, and the ball tampering saga cannot be allowed to be blown in a bigger controversy. The ICC must step in and nip the evil in the bid, if it indeed exists presently.
--By A Cricket Analyst