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Cricket, sweet and sour

August 2, 2007

Australia was handed an unexpected bonus during the India-England second Test at Trent Bridge - ammunition in the ongoing battle over sledging. Alex Brown, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, thumbs his nose:

THE English and Indian cricket teams have forfeited the right to criticise Australia for unsportsmanlike behaviour.

After a Test in which both teams sought to exorcise the spirit of cricket - most notably when England fieldsmen threw jelly beans on the wicket while Zaheer Khan was taking strike - England and India have committed the very sins they have supposedly stood against.

England lost the second Test at Trent Bridge by seven wickets, and there was justice in the result. A team that lobs foreign objects on the pitch in the hope of distracting a batsman does not deserve to win a match.

You've got to wonder what Sunil Gavaskar, self-appointed ombudsman of Australia's cricketing morality, has to say about that one.

In the jellybean saga, a little point has been missed out - the question of what the fielding team needed pockets-full of the stuff for. Remember this incident, where in January 2004 a jellybean got Rahul Dravid hauled up before the match referee, and fined for ball tampering? The question of whether Dravid was pushing the fair-play envelope a bit was hotly debated at the time.

Now, Christopher Martin-Jenkins indirectly harks back to that question.

There "jellygate" should and would end, although it is a rather depressing fact of life that all this controversy brings attention to the game. Switching on Radio 5 Live on the way to the Test yesterday it was not, for once, football that was under discussion but jellybeans. There is always a place for genuine humour in the game but none for calculated gamesmanship of any kind, which makes several other aspects of the Trent Bridge Test more serious.

There is the question, for example, of whether it is legitimate for players to suck sweets, as they have in professional cricket and the higher echelons of the club game for many years, with the ulterior motive of sugar-coating the ball with saliva to help to maintain its shine on one side.

The line between this means of encouraging swing and physical roughing up of one side of the ball to enhance reverse movement is blurred, but "artificial substances" are expressly forbidden by Law 42, just as much as interference with the seams or the surface.

Image: Zaheer Khan argues with Kevin Pietersen on day three of the second Test at Trent Bridge.

Also read: English media and the jellybeans

  • India in the United Kingdom 2007

    Photographs: Getty Images
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