Today, in a bizarre twist of fate, a local cricket club umpire has been accused of tampering with the ball by The Chiswick Cricket Club (‘The CCC’). Fiction can be stranger than truth and at a time when the ICC is beset with problems over Umpire Hair’s decision in the 4th England v Pakistan cricket test match last week and subsequent demand from Hair of $500,000 to ‘go quietly’ – it is ironic that we should now hear of an umpire being accused of ball tampering.
Apparently, Umpire Charon, who likes to smoke unleaded Silk Cut while umpiring, found that his matches would not strike on the matchbox. Calmly picking up the cricket ball at the end of an over, he attempted to strike the match on the worn side of the ball several times before the match would light. Fast bowler, James ‘Criminal’ Damage, then bowled a bowl at 93.6 mph which had a ‘reverse swing’ of four metres to the right; surprising the wicket keeper, who was not able to prevent the ball zipping to the boundary for four runs.
The CCC are relying on Rule 42 (Fair and unfair play) 3 (b) “It is unfair for anyone to rub the ball on the ground for any reason, interfere with any of the seams or the surface of the ball, use any implement, or take any other action whatsoever which is likely to alter the condition of the ball, except as permitted in (a) above.”
A spokesman at The MCC said “The Laws of Cricket did not anticipate that an umpire might interfere with the ball, let alone use the ball to light a match so that he could smoke on the field. But it seems to us, after consulting the eminent QC, Sir John ‘Stumper’ Oval, that the words ‘It is unfair for anyone‘ and ‘take any action whatsoever which is likely to alter the condition of the ball’ are sufficiently wide to cover ball tampering by the umpire.
Umpire Charon is no stranger to controversy. A year ago, while umpiring a match between The Acton Irregulars and The Bollo Ball Scuffers, he walked onto the pitch after lunch with a bottle of Rioja which he proceeded to ‘neck’ while play commenced and was heard several times to shout ‘Howzat!’ before the ball had even reached the batsman.
Umpire Charon later sent an email to the Secretary of The CCC stating “that while it may have been inappropriate for me to use the ball to strike a match, so I could light a cigarette, I do not believe that the end result of the match would have been any different. When it was drawn to my attention that the ball did not seem to go straight after my actions, I was very quick to provide a new ball. In the circumstances if you put £1800 into my offshore bank account within 24 hours, I shall be quite happy to go quietly. I look forward to hearing from you by return.”