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Last Updated: Friday, 8 September 2006, 09:12 GMT 10:12 UK
Historical echoes of ball-tampering row
By Gulu Ezekiel

For the umpire at the centre of cricket's first ball-tampering row almost 30 years ago, the current crisis surrounding Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq is a case of déjà vu.

Umpires Doctrove and Hair and Inzamam-ul-Haq
The ball-tampering saga has dominated cricket headlines

Judah Reuben, now 84, has been closely following the Oval Test controversy which will result in a two-day inquiry in London later this month.

The basis for the ball-tampering allegation which led to England being awarded the match by forfeit has not been made public, but Pakistan have steadfastly maintained their innocence.

To help resolve the matter, the International Cricket Council has announced the possibility of sending the ball used on the final afternoon to a laboratory for forensic analysis.

It is a situation which carries some echoes of events in January 1977 during a Test match between India and England in Madras (now Chennai).

India had lost the first two Tests to Tony Greig's side and were struggling in the third as John Lever, playing in his debut series, caused havoc with his left-arm swing bowling.

"It was on the third day of the Test match that I noticed a gauze strip lying on the bowler's run up which I picked up and noticed had a sticky substance on it.

"When I brought it to the notice of Greig he told me it was vaseline and had been used by the bowlers to prevent sweat from trickling into their eyes," Reuben told BBC Sport.

Reuben and fellow umpire MS Sivasankariah submitted a letter about the matter to India's Board of Control (BCCI) and a piece of the gauze.

JOHN LEVER v INDIA 1976-77
John Lever wearing the gauze strips
1st Test, Delhi
7-46, 3-24
2nd Test, Calcutta
2-57, 0-12
3rd Test, Madras
5-59, 2-18
4th Test, Bangalore
1-48, 1-28
5th Test, Bombay
3-42, 2-46
Overall figures
26 wickets, average 14.61

In the letter, they claimed: "There was every possibility of this greasy substance being used along with the sweat on the ball to retain the shine."

Greig and the England team management categorically denied any wrongdoing on their part.

But the incident resulted in an outcry and prompted the BCCI to initially announce the ball and the gauze would be submitted to a lab in Madras for analysis.

It is not known if such tests were carried out but if they were, the results never saw the light of day.

"I was told the whole thing was hushed up by the Board in order not to damage relations with England," said Reuben, also a former finger print expert for the Bombay police.

"I only wish they had given me the ball as a souvenir."

Reuben is not convinced laboratory analysis would be a good idea in the current situation.

"Going through (with) such a test would mean converting the whole issue into a police case," he commented.

But he believes umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove were correct to award the Oval Test to England by forfeit.

"Once the Pakistanis did not come onto the field on time after the tea interval, they automatically conceded the game. The umpires were only following the laws after all.

"Some have said the law is an ass; I say the law is the law."

Reuben stood in 10 Tests, the last of which was the game in Madras because he had reached the retirement age for umpires.

It could be that The Oval was Hair's final Test with the pressure on over his subsequent offer to resign in exchange for $500,000.



SEE ALSO
Pakistan call for umpire inquiry
29 Aug 06 |  Cricket
Pakistani shock at Hair revelation
26 Aug 06 |  South Asia
Inzamam charged in cheating row
21 Aug 06 |  Cricket


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