• I didn’t cheat – Sachin

    India great Sachin Tendulkar has revealed his ‘shock’ and ‘humiliation’ at being accused of ball tampering during the second Test against South Africa in Port Elizabeth on the 2001/02 tour.

    In his autobiography, Playing It My Way, to be released later this week, he writes that he was so upset by the allegations that considered quitting the tour.

    ‘I had a very difficult time when referee Mike Denness alleged that I had been involved in ball tampering. I was shocked because I had always played cricket with integrity and honesty and would never do such a thing,’ he says in his autobiography

    The celebrated Indian batsman, who scored almost 16,000 Test runs in an international career which ran from 1989 until he retired at the end of last year, says that all he did was to use his thumb to clean off the grass that was stuck on the seam. He insists that he never tampered with the ball.

    ‘None of the umpires had lodged a formal complaint against me and it was humiliating to be labelled a cheat. I wasn’t prepared to let it pass. I informed Mike Denness that I would complain about the allegation and would not keep quiet about it.

    ‘I was prepared to abandon the tour if need be but wasn’t ready to be labelled a cheat. It was about honour and there was no way I would allow a match referee to cast aspersions on my credibility. Mike Denness’s decisions had led to a crisis that had ended up dividing the cricket world down the middle. It was an avoidable incident and one that left everyone bitter in the end.’

    On the third day Tendulkar had bowled four overs of gentle medium pace but had almost immediately started swinging the ball more than any other bowler. The local TV producer instructed cameramen to zoom in on Tendulkar’s hands, to check what grip he was using. Instead, on two occasions he was spotted working on the seam of the ball with the thumb and forefinger of his left hand. The commentators went into overdrive and close-up replays were shown.

    On the fourth day [match referee] Denness told India he would be banning Tendulkar for one match, suspended for a year, for his actions. Sourav Ganguly was to be given a similar suspended punishment for not controlling his team; Wisden noted that considering he had been suspended and/or fined three times in the previous 12 months ;he was fortunate to get away with only a suspended ban for not upholding the spirit of the game’.

    Virender Sehwag was to be banned from the third and final Test for claiming a catch off Jacques Kallis that had clearly bounced and for attempting to intimidate the umpire by charging at him, as well as using ‘crude or abusive language’. Batsman Shiv Sunder Das, wicketkeeper Deep Dasgupta and spinner Harbhajan Singh were to be handed suspended one-Test bans for excessive appealing. All six were also fined 75% of their match fees. While action against Tendulkar and Ganguly was instigated by Denness, the other four players had been cited by the on-field umpires.

    Denness did not intend making the punishments public, but infuriated players leaked the news to the media on the fourth afternoon. In punishing six people from one team, the Indian media immediately accused him of racism, while the general public were outraged.

    What followed next was international outrage. The ICC had decided to back Denness, but that led to it being savaged in the Indian press. India board president Jagmohan Dalmiya demanded Denness be removed from the final Test, where he was again the nominated ICC referee. Niranjan Shah, honorary secretary of the BCCI, said of Denness: ‘We are unhappy with his inconsistency and the India team have no confidence in him. We feel that all the decisions are against only India. The South Africans committed the same excessive appealing.’

    Stripped of its status, the third ‘Test’ at Centurion went ahead in a surreal atmosphere and was easily won by South Africa, with Shaun Pollock, who scored a an unbeaten 113 off 109 balls, admitting it had not felt like a proper international. Denness had been stood down, replaced as match referee by Dennis Lindsay and South Africa won by an innings and 73 runs. Jacques Kallis 110 off 234 balls, and Pollock – who only took two wickets in the match – won the man of the match award.

    Tom Eaton’s Business Day/Sunday Times’ Sport Monthly piece on ball tampering





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