Dhoni's men and 'sugary saliva'

A tabloid in the UK may have been barking up the wrong tree when it splashed pictures of a ‘mint-chewing’ Virender Sehwag apparently putting sugary saliva on the ball in the course of the second day’s play at Edgbaston on Thursday. The quality of Indian bowling, its strike rate and general ineffectiveness may actually be the biggest advertisement against the use of artificial substances on the ball to make it swing.

The whole theory of any substance helping the cricket ball to swing might come into question if it’s being suggested that Indians are sugar-coating the ball. Their huge failure as a bowling side – most apparent in the third Test where they have labored a couple of days to pick up very few England wickets – puts paid to such wacky theories about making the ball to do more.

The 2010 vintage Duke ball in use in the current series is dark red in colour and moved about a lot in the air and off the seam in the first two Tests and on the opening day of the third Test on which India collapsed to 224. But it was already apparent that batting conditions were improving even as Dhoni salvaged a smidgen of pride for Indian batting.

In fact, Tim Bresnan fired a broadside at Indian coach Duncan Fletcher for so much as suggesting that the ball was swinging and seaming in Birmingham, which is why the England bowlers were successful. It’s pretty clear the ball has done far less at Edgbaston than at Lord’s and Trent Bridge, two quintessential English grounds at which the ball ‘rocked’.

Even the remotest suggestion of players pulling tricks to make the ball move betrays the ground reality of an Indian attack that has gone to pieces, more so as catches have been floored freely, including by the world Test record catcher Rahul Dravid. To imagine a player would put substances on the ball surreptitiously in the modern era of the prying and all revealing television cameras is to hint that Indians are stupid.

It appears controversies will, like a faithful dog, tail India-England cricket in which ball tampering whispers have been around since the ’70s when John Lever was accused of letting Vaseline run down off the gauze over his eyebrows to make the ball swing. Any bowler worth his salt knows in England the ball swings on its own and the only subterfuge that may help there is to find some reverse swing.

The Pakistanis were said to have induced reverse swing by the use of bottle tops, sand paper, etc. as per confessions made by some of them. To hear Indians being accused of ball tampering is a bit thick, for if they were successful it would have shown in this series in which England have made totals of 474, 269/6 decl, 221, 544 and heading towards a truly astronomical total on Friday. And Sehwag is not so dim witted as to believe he could do something for Indian bowlers by putting some sugar on the ball.

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