x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Umar Gul points the finger at James Anderson and Stuart Broad

The fast bowler seems to have lit the touchpaper ahead of the three-Test series between Pakistan and England in the UAE early next year.

Umar Gul, the Pakistan fast bowler, suggested that most bowlers tamper with the ball in cricket.
Umar Gul, the Pakistan fast bowler, suggested that most bowlers tamper with the ball in cricket.

Tensions between Pakistan and England rarely need an excuse to rise, but ahead of an important winter series in the UAE, Umar Gul appears to have done just that, suggesting two English bowlers have ball-tampered.

Although Gul issued a clarification later, the matter is unlikely to be forgotten when the two sides meet in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in January 2012, with on and off-field relations already strained by the spot-fixing scandal last year.

At the time, Jonathon Trott and Wahab Riaz were involved in an angry confrontation during a tempestuous one-day international (ODI) series.

Then Ijaz Butt, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman, accused England of deliberately losing an ODI.

The unfounded allegations pushed board relations to an all-time low and although they improved after Butt apologised, there lingers a level of unease.

None of this will be helped by Gul's comments after a domestic Twenty20 game in Karachi, in which he said that James Anderson and Stuart Broad have ball-tampered.

Responding to questions about Shoaib Akhtar's confessions in his autobiography that he (Akhtar) and other Pakistan bowlers tampered, Gul said, "Quite a few bowlers are doing it even now.

"Against England last year I saw myself Anderson was doing it. Against Australia, the Ashes that they won, everyone saw, Broad scratched the ball with his shoes. Everyone does this."

The Broad incident is confused; Broad was accused of scratching the ball with his spikes against South Africa the previous winter, not the Ashes.

Gul has himself been the subject of unproven ball-tampering allegations, by Daniel Vettori during the 2009 World T20 and during the infamous 2006 Oval Test, which Pakistan forfeited. Although he cautioned against legalising ball-tampering, he said there were legal ways in which a ball could be "made" to reverse swing.

"The accusations are always against Pakistan bowlers ... but bowlers from every country do it," he said.

"Nowadays, all the advertising boards on the boundary and with the dry pitches, the ball gets rough because of that. It's not just that bowlers make it rough.

"Tampering happens in many ways. One is illegal, where you make it with nails or something else. These days players throw it in one-bounce from the boundary on the square and that scratches it. This is legal."

Gul, generally the least controversial of Pakistan's recent fast bowlers, later issued a clarification, arguing that the term ball-tampering had been misused.

"I was explaining that the ball gets scratched when it is thrown against the rough surface or hits the advertisement boards along the boundary rope. In this manner, I said, every bowler can be accused of doing it.

"I further stated that ball-tampering should not be legalised as swinging the ball in reverse is an art and cannot be done only with tampering the ball. This art should be respected I said. The names I mentioned were in the same context, and at no point I tried to accuse any individual bowler of ball tampering."

The Pakistan-England rivalry has never lacked for controversy. It has been dominated by accusations of biased umpiring on both sides.

The most explosive clash came in the 1987/88 Faisalabad Test, when a stand-off between Mike Gatting, the England captain, and Shakoor Rana, the umpire, led to fingers being pointed at each other, and a whole day's play being abandoned.

Barbs over ball-tampering are not new either; Pakistan's win in the 1992 Test series was dogged by constant sniping that Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis made the ball reverse swing through illegal means.

The topic was also the subject of a libel case in the mid-90s involving Imran Khan, Allan Lamb and Ian Botham.

Pakistan, meanwhile, have dropped Umar Akmal and recalled Shoaib Malik for the series against Sri Lanka that precedes the England series. Akmal has not scored a century since 2009, averaged just 24 last year, and failed to shine in the tour of Zimbabwe last month.

Gul and Wahab Riaz, who were rested for that tour, will spearhead the pace attack along with Aizaz Cheema and Junaid Khan.


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