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War on 'tampering'

By Rob Shilkin - posted Monday, 28 August 2006

The prosecution of Inzamam ul Huq is yet another example of how the so-called “war on tampering” is threatening our civil liberties and destroying the democratic nature of our own cricketing society.

Whether ul Huq illegally altered the properties of the cricket ball is, frankly, not relevant to his trial. The proceedings against him are not about saving cricket from “ball tamperers” and cheats: at their core, they are about upholding the rule of law and procedural fairness in our game.

While serving in the field for his country, Mr ul Huq is entitled to the full protection of the laws of cricket, regardless of whether he wears indistinguishable cricketing whites or his country's greens. This protection has been denied to him.


First, Mr ul Huq was accused of a serious cricketing offence with very little evidence and without due process or the presumption of innocence. Far from being a tamperer, his lawyers have evidence that he is simply a dashing right-handed batsman from Pakistan who found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Second, the Pakistani team was indefinitely detained in the Oval dressing room after tea - without bails - in conditions that can only be described as inhumane.

Third, the evidence used against ul Huq (namely, The Ball) is clearly inadmissible. No legal counsel was present at the time this evidence was provided to the umpires. Further, it was not handed to the umpire voluntarily. Under these circumstances, following the decision of the Victorian Supreme Court in R v Jack Thomas, any markings on the ball must be disregarded, contradictory televised evidence notwithstanding.

Fourth, and most alarmingly, he is being tried by a star-chamber - a trumped up, all-powerful kangaroo court, without a jury and on a foreign island.

These matters are all symptomatic of how, stump by stump, the cricketing freedoms for which we have batted, bowled and fielded for so long, are being knocked over by the “war on tampering”. Surely Geoffrey Boycott did not play stoic, emotionless forward-defence against the new ball for a decade, in order for the fundamental principles of the game to be sacrificed in this brazen manner. The brave openers who stood firm against the firepower of Garner, Holding, Roberts and Marshall would be appalled.

We are gripped by a paranoia in which any sub-continental cricketer is treated as a potential tamperer. This panic is fed by the Islamaphobic cricketing authorities who are crafting a climate of fear, designed to smear the good name of Pakistani cricket. We have already restricted our freedoms by, among other ludicrous and oppressive fielding restrictions, banning bottle caps on the cricket pitch. Where will this slippery slope end? Will we ban fingernails? In a few years will we be forcing the Pakistanis to play in lycra?


Before we cast aspersions on the practices of other cultures, we should look at our own scorecard. Do we have any claim to moral superiority to the tamperers?

Our history of crimes is long and shameful. Recall that Mike Atherton was caught rubbing dirt into the ball; during the 2005 Ashes, the English team was sucking lollies and using their thickened saliva to generate extra swing; let us not forget the years of sledging and on-field abuse engaged in by Western nations; nor the infamous underarm delivery by Trevor Chappell.

Yet the champions of the war on tampering - these modern day armchair Bradmans - conveniently forget our dark history. As we slurred the Pakistanis as match fixers and chuckers, and used our underhand tactics - in their home grounds and in front of their families no less - their future opening bowlers were watching. And learning. Can we complain when the modern-day tamperers use the methods and instruments that we spoon-fed to them?

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Article edited by Jack Scrine.
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First published on on August 25, 2006.

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About the Author

Rob Shilkin is a lawyer at Clayton Utz in Sydney. His Op-Ed pieces on international affairs have been published in Australian newspapers and magazines.

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