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DateLine Sunday, 3 June 2007

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Letters to Sports Editor: Gilchrist's hidden squash ball

SQUASH BALL: I have read with great interest the different points brought forward, for or against, by a few cricketers, cricket fans, engineers, sports enthusiasts and journalists on the subject of the hidden squash ball used by Aussie opener Adam Gilchrist in the World Cup final played in Barbados on 28th April 2007.

I am of the opinion that the World Cup final 2007, on the whole, was a big farce due to a delayed start, altered numbers of overs based on a flawed Duckworth-Lewis formula that hardly anybody understands. Incessant rains and dark gloomy weather, lack of floodlights, weather conditions not being fair to the team batting second, and one wrong umpiring decision against Sri Lankan captain, Mahela. The umpires and match referee should have known it better to postpone at least the Sri Lankan innings for the following day.

But none of the above factors drew my attention more than the unfair and unethical tactic of the hidden squash ball that was admittedly used by Gilchrist to the surprise of the stunned spectators, and all cricket-loving fans.

Umpires and World Cup officials have kept mum about the affair. ICC is tight-lipped, though I feel that they should take up this matter seriously in fairness to the game of cricket.

MCC rules that there was nothing illegal about the hidden squash ball, mind you, an incident never heard of before in the one hundred years that cricket has been played in the world. Some allude to a broken squash ball being used by Gilchrist to distract from the main issue.

However, my curiosity was aroused about the physics behind the use of a hidden squash ball. An illuminating article on this topic was sent in by one Vijitha Herath of the University of Paderborn, Germany.

Although I have only seen squash being played, but never seen a squash ball at close range I wanted to have a closer-look at the squash ball and experiment with it. So I marched into Chands Sports shop in Colombo, paid Rs. 250 for a squash ball, and purchased an inner-pair of cotton gloves for Rs. 75, total cost Rs. 325.

After I came home, I shoved the squash ball into the dependent part of my left glove over the left palm, close to the ring and little finger, and using an old cricket bat of mine stroked a few left-handed shots. Immediately I felt the 'pumping' effect the squash ball imparted to the lower end of the bat handle. I felt it had an enhancing effect. I did not feel uncomfortable with the squash ball inside my glove.

I wish some established cricketers and cricket fans try this as an experiment and give their candid views on this topic. Adam did not have the ball concealed for fun. He declared to the world how the ball helped him to his century by repeating, pointing to his left glove. Look at his betting averages in the early part of the tournament. Why was the squash ball not used in the early matches? Was there a hidden agenda behind it? All these questions need straightforward answers.

The squash ball used by me was an approved Dunlop World Squash Federation ball, black in colour and measuring 40 mm in diameter. The squash ball was slightly bigger than a pingpong ball and marginally smaller than a golf ball. It had a central air space and was very light and resilient, and could be squeezed between thumb and index finger until they almost met. It had a springy effect when pressed.

If we do not resolve this problem without delay, all types of cricketers, sportsmen such as golfers, tennis and badminton players will be using hidden squash balls. Athletes, long and high jumpers will be using them inside their athletic shoes.

So a stage will emerge that before the game of cricket is played, the players will have to be body-searched, bats X-rayed for metal concealed within, and urine tested for steroids at least in the players who are deemed suspicious.

What a day of shame will it be for cricket in the future!

Sri Lanka cricket officials and ICC officials please wake up!

Prof. Merrille Perera

 

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