Faf du Plessis is pleased the penalty for ball tampering has increased, but is unhappy with the ambiguity about the definition. What, he asks, does the ICC actually deem to be tampering? Can a player chew gum before shining the ball? How about other sweets? Why can’t the playing conditions lay all this out in black and white?
The ICC has ratcheted up the punishment for tampering, turning it from a level two offence for which players were rarely suspended, to a level three offence for which they could be suspended for up to six Tests. But Du Plessis, who has been twice found guilty of tampering, was critical of their failure to spell out what tampering actually entails.
This has become an especially vital topic ahead of the Sri Lanka series. Not only has Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal just served a one-match suspension for a tampering offence of his own, after he was seen putting something in his mouth before shining the ball in the Caribbean, South Africa had themselves tampered with the ball last time they toured the island, when Vernon Philander was seen using his fingernails on the seam of the ball at the Test in Galle.
“I think it’s important to say that I’m not clear yet on that matter [of tampering],” du Plessis said. “The ICC has made the penalties a lot more strict, but they still haven’t said what is allowed and what isn’t allowed. Is chewing gum allowed? Is it not? Are you allowed mints in your mouth? As Hashim Amla said, he likes putting sweets in his mouth when he spends a long time in the field, so there’s nothing wrong with it.
“For me, I need clarity still. I’m looking forward to speaking to the umpires before the game to make sure there’s clarity. I’m sure that Dinesh would as well. We know now that the penalties are much harsher. So what we do with the ball now – as we’ve seen with Australia – things like that, the penalties are going to be much harsher. We expect that we will see less of that in the game.”
The ramping-up of penalties for tampering offences, though, was understandable, du Plessis said. Previously, tampering had been punishable by a one-Test suspension at most. With the ICC having chosen to impose the sternest possible sanction on tamperers following the sandpaper incident involving Australia in Cape Town, Chandimal became the first cricketer to be suspended for a Test for tampering. Now that the playing conditions are due to be officially altered, ball-tamperers are likely to face much harsher punishments in future.
“Ball tampering is a serious offence,” du Plessis said. “If you put something in your mouth and you shine the ball, it’s not as serious – that’s just my opinion. But at least there is that penalty now, so when someone has the opportunity to … has a decision to make on ‘am try and do something with the ball?’, the penalties that are there now are going to make them think twice. So hopefully we will see that part of the game move a little bit in a different way.”
Chandimal has also backed du Plessis’ calls for clarity. He made the point that sweets can be helpful to maintaining a healthy blood-sugar level through tough Test-match days.
“In the Abu Dhabi Test last year, the heat was more than 45 degrees, and I got 164 runs there,” Chandimal said. “After 120 runs, I had batted for more than a day, so at that time I had felt faint, so the physio came on and it was sweets that helped me to score the remainder of my runs. So at that kind of time, if we take things with sugar, it’s helps our energy levels.”