A lot of prose can be read, many emanating from the island nation, about Adam Gilchrist’s use of a squash ball. Some have also foolishly likened it to the Trevor Chappell underarm delivery. The last thing that Gilchrist’s act can be called is underhand tactics. I’d still like to believe that he was within the rules and deserves only the greatest accolades for playing one of the best ever one-day innings.
For starters, the underarm delivery that Trevor bowled was akin to an F1 equivalent of team orders whereby one driver is asked to forego his lead so that his team-mate can get higher points. While both these situations were within the rules of the sport, it was not within the spirit of the sport. Gilchrist using a squash ball was a different matter altogether.
Batsmen around the world use extra padding inside the gloves, some have also used extra protection around their wrists on bouncy tracks. Gilchrist did something that was just an extension of this, so that he could grip the bat better. He did not use a broader bat, though he made it seem so because of his phenomenal stroke-play. Bowlers cut out their boots so that their big toe’s nails are protected when they put that extra effort on the delivery stride. All these things are done so that the players are comfortable and able to give their best.
Let’s add another dimension to this. How many batsmen in the world could have played like Gilchrist had they also been allowed to put a squash ball in their glove? Would Sri Lankan authorities and fans been crying foul had Gilchrist been dismissed earlier, when he offered a caught and bowled chance, albeit a sharp one? Also, its not that Gilchrist became this demolisher of attacks only when he put that squash ball in the glove. His innings came as no surprise. Had Pigeon put a squash ball, he wouldn’t have been able to play like Gilly.
Everybody knows for sure that Sachin Tendulkar’s pads are made of a material that is a lot lighter than the conventional pad. That, for sure, is not unsporting. Jayasuriya wastes an enormous amount of time (by tapping the pitch umpteen times, looking right, touching his helmet, after each delivery so that he can concentrate), nobody ever said anything about it.
I hope that some sense prevails. Or else, the next time a cricketer even wears a lucky charm, and succeeds, even that will be called unsporting. The Lankans should not make their progress to the WC final hollow by crying foul about Gilchrist. That devalues the way the Lankans played. Yes, Gilchrist’s innings turned the tables, but even otherwise Australia was a far superior team. This team can beat Sri Lanka nine times out of ten. And if all Sri Lankan batsmen are asked to keep a squash ball in their glove and walk out to bat, they shall convincingly lose ten times out of ten. Well played Gilly and the Aussies. And well played Lankans. But what some of the Lankans are cribbing about outside the field is just not cricket.