Cheating? We’re not new to it

Cheating? We’re not new to it. By Simon McLoughlin.

As with almost everything in sport, the Americans did it first.

Joe Niekro was a pitcher for the Minnesota Twins in the 1980s, noted for his knuckleball, a notoriously difficult delivery for which the player grips the baseball with his thumb and the fingertips of his index and middle fingers.

The knuckleball wobbles unpredictably in the air: hard to hit, even harder to throw.

In 1987 Niekro, by now a 42-year-old in the twilight of a decorated career, was pitching against the California Angels and his knuckleball was singing. So much so that home plate umpire Tim Tschida suspected something was afoot.

“The balls were defaced and scuffed in the same spot by something that couldn’t be done by hands,” Tschida told Minnesota’s Star Tribune.

Tschida confronted Niekro on the mound and told him to hand over his glove, suspecting he was hiding something in it. There was nothing. Then Tschida’s fellow umpires descended on the mound and told Niekro to empty his pockets. The front pockets were empty but from the back pockets emerged an emery board and a piece of sandpaper.

Caught red-handed. …

David Warner, 2013

It’s not so long ago that it was all but a free-for-all. Does Australia = cheats. Or is the equation merely Australia = incompetent at cheating?

Evidence for the latter comes from Marcus Trescothick’s 2008 autobiography Coming Back to Me, in which he brags about his role in England’s series-winning reverse swing tactics.

“I was firmly established as the man in charge of looking after the ball when we were fielding,” he wrote. “It had been common knowledge in county cricket for some time that certain sweets produced saliva which, when applied to the ball for cleaning purposes, enabled it to keep its shine for longer and therefore its swing.”

Trescothick thought he’d been sprung during the Headlingley Test. “As I dived to gather the ball at square leg, I landed on my side and a shower of Murray Mints spewed out of my trouser pocket all over the grass right in front of the umpire,” he wrote. “Fortunately, neither he nor the two batsmen seemed to take much notice as I scrambled around on all fours trying desperately to gather in the sweets before they started asking awkward questions.” Where was Fanie de Villiers then?

England won that series 2-1. Reverse swing (and Glenn McGrath stepping on a ball before the second Test) were seen as the decisive factors.

The England players, including Trescothick, all got OBEs. …

In 1990, gentle medium pacer [New Zealander] Chris Pringle took a career-best 11 wickets for 152 runs in Pakistan on a batsman-friendly wicket. He later revealed he’d used a bottle top to scratch the ball.

His captain Martin Crowe defended his bowler’s actions by saying they were just trying to keep up with the Pakistanis, who had been infamous for their use of bottle tops.

Pringle’s punishment? Nothing. Right place, right time.