If you contrasted Aamir Sohail&’s ruing of Pakistan&’s decline since they took to getting up to monkey business with the ball with England&’s Champions Trophy prosperity – allegedly – because of it, you knew why, in hopefully suitably updated language, one man&’s pizza, or pasta, was another one&’s poison. And, given that you can’t really bypass England&’s denials and condemn them to bottomless perdition after the trial by the media, their well-chronicled, sharply worded righteous indignation was a world apart from the stony Pakistani silence that succeeded Sohail&’s spiel.
He’d blamed it on Imran Khan, who, truth to tell, didn’t really emerge from this trans-continental verbal back-and-forth, even if it wasn’t charged with any serious combative impulses, with his face unsullied. Pakistan&’s World Cup-winning skipper never really denied that he’d done it – it&’s in Ivo Tennant&’s book and a London tabloid duly blew it up when it came out – but never failed to say, simultaneously, that ball-tampering was as old as the game itself.
He was also reported to have said that everyone on the circuit knew everything about it and that the English media exploded in utterly dishonest fury only when England were at the receiving end of it.
But it was Bob Willis who had this time around voiced the earliest allegation against England and if no one was asking if Imran Khan, the Tehriq-i-Insaf boss, would some time in the future allow himself the perfidies he periodically accused his political peers of and then blame his own ways on the precedents set by them, well might it have been attributable to a general awareness of the country&’s cricketing image, such as it is, being more important than any of its cricketers’ thought process, whatever it is. That, though, is no reason why at least such Pakistanis as profess a serious interest in the game&’s past shouldn’t try to find out if the bit about ball-tampering being hoary antiquity&’s bequest is a correct, truthful interpretation of history. Old, if not ancient, accounts of the game of the English summer suggest a more or less level playing field until restrictive pieces of legislation, inclusive of those pertaining to the institutionalised use of pitch covers, and improvements in the batsman&’s playing paraphernalia swung things the other way.
RC Robertson-Glasgow likened bowlers to kings and batsmen, to cows in an example of humorous exaggeration which, in a purely contemporary context dominated by the profusion of limited-over games, 50-50 as well as Twenty20, would seem absurd, plain and simple. But Shoaib Akhtar, among others, let it be known that cricket wouldn’t have found itself saddled with as many bowling-specific controversies as it did in his day if its legal guardians were only a little more sensitive to the competitive requirements of the bowler for the game to be even and, thus, entertaining.
Which is where you might find yourself asking what the International Cricket Council&’s – and the cricket-playing countries’ – putatively technical committees do when they get together. It isn’t the ball alone that they tamper with, right?