Ball-tampering and cricket go back a long way. For decades, bowlers have been trying to find a way to make the ball ‘do’ something and get the batters out and for decades, cricketers have known about it.
The ICC considers it to be illegal but to most players it seems to be an accepted part of the game. Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft are only the latest to have tried to do the same and get caught doing it. By no means will they be the last.
But, of course, much of the argument around ball tampering in the 80s and 90s was because of reverse swing. The Pakistan bowlers changed the way cricket was played and few could believe it was being done legally. But the allegations always came in the form of innuendo. There was never a direct charge.
However, in his 1994 autobiography, Imran Khan admitted that he tampered with the ball to the extent of using a bottle top. It was a startling admission which concerned a county match between Sussex and Hampshire in 1991.
“The ball was not deviating at all,” Imran is quoted as saying. “So I got the 12th man to bring on a bottle top and it started to move around a lot. I occasionally scratched the side [of the ball] and lifted the seam.”
This contravenes Law 42.4 (lifting the seam) and 42.5 (changing condition of the ball) but, quite clearly, Imran was not perturbed by that. And as generations after that have shown, neither are they.
This Channel 4 interview from 1994 – which was conducted after the book was released – is worth a watch because it shows how widely accepted ball-tampering is in the professional cricket world and why it will perhaps never go away: