By Gulu Ezekiel
“Everybody does it” is what every crook down the centuries has whined when caught red-handed. Shahid Afridi is no different. Except that he must be one of the dumbest crooks of all time!
To think he can pull off a stunt like biting into the cricket ball in front of thousands of spectators and 26 cameras as well as millions on the Net just shows how low he can go.
Remember this is the same guy who five years ago at Faisalabad pirouetted with his spikes on the centre of the pitch during a Test match against England when he thought everyone had been distracted by the explosion of a soft drinks gas canister at the ground. Did he really think the TV cameras too would be distracted?!
Its no wonder controversial Australian umpire Darrel Hair has dubbed Afridi a “serial cheat.” And the Pakistanis have been up to their high jinx for years. Former captain Mushtaq Mohammad admits as much in his autobiography released a couple of years ago.
But despite his blatant act and subsequent bleating, the acting Pakistan captain was not far off the mark. He is right that at some stage or the other in cricket history the bowlers of every nation have tried to use illegal means to get the ball to do tricks on their behalf.
And guess what? Afridi is not even the first cricketer to bite into the ball on the field of play!
Yes, it happened 20 years ago in New Zealand and the culprit back then was an Indian, swing bowler Manoj Prabhakar.
In fact, when I saw the incriminating footage of Afridi last week, my mind raced back two decades and I was able to trace the photographer who had snapped Prabhakar in biting action during the second Test match at Napier in February 1990.
The photos were broadcast on the NewsX channel (see link below) on Thursday night—the first time they had been seen outside of New Zealand–and Prabhakar was asked for his reaction. But being in Jaipur at the time, he could not see the photos and blithely denied the act!
However, Prabhakar who was repeatedly suspected of tampering with the ball was honest enough to admit that bowlers have been forced to this last resort as the game is totally in favour of the batsmen.
That indeed has been the case for centuries with the batsmen acting as the lords and masters of the game and the bowlers thrust in the role of toilers and domestic helps. Now even more so with the advent of Twenty20 cricket and the pitches around the world getting flatter and flatter and the bats getting more and more powerful.
The difference between Prabhakar and Afridi is that the former was smart enough to know that back then there were no ICC match referees and low key TV and print media coverage of the game. In fact, if I recall correctly there were probably just four Indian journalists assigned to that tour. Today there would be over 50. So Prabhakar’s act simply slipped under the radar and would never have come to light in India if not for Afridi and his foolishness.
Moral of the story? Break the law if you must, but don’t get caught!
[This article was originally published on ButJazz.com.]