Bob and ball tampering

You have to admire the Australians for their sense of musketeerism. All for one and one for all. When a sporting colleague comes under fire, they rally around in defence. No matter what the circumstances or the validity of the arguments.

While the majority of the cricket-playing world has expressed its surprise and even dismay at umpire Darrell Hair’s actions in penalising Pakistan five runs for ball-tampering and then offering the choice of replacement ball to England’s batsmen, Australians have been falling over themselves to defend their countryman. In some cases, the same people who have known Hair to be cantancerous, stubborn, pig-headed and officious – and have said so – are now praising him for “taking a stand.” Nobody, it seems, is bothered much by Hair’s lack of evidence. Minor detail.

But perhaps the best example of stabbing wildly in the dark in the hope of making contact with anybody or anything that dares to be critical of anything Australian has been launched by former Aussie captain and former ICC Match Referee Barry Jarman. A man not known for his quiet tongue or endless patience, Jarman has proudly announced that he ‘caught’ Bob Woolmer ball-tampering as far back as 1997 when he was in charge of South Africa. Apparently, it was in a one-day match, in South Africa, against India.

Speaking to the Brisbane Courier-Mail earlier this week, Jarman – who kept the ‘tampered’ ball as a souvenir having ordered it to be replaced – takes up the story:

“The ball is only 16 overs old yet one side has been tampered with and you can see where they have run their thumbails down the seam which opens up,” Jarman said. “The open seam (which caught the sweat) meant one side was heavier than the other.”

Jarman says Woolmer was furious and protested immediately: “They all went berserk including Bob Woolmer who raced into my office and said ‘what’s going on?’ I said ‘your guys are stuffing around with the ball mate.’ I told him who it was and he went out with his tail between his legs. I said to him ‘if you really want to make something of it I can give it to the press and we’ll see what happens then but I will just give you a warning to cut it out.’

Jarman claims that two South African players later went to his hotel room to apologise.

“I was happy to handle it the way I did because they stopped it and that was what I was trying to do. I felt the more low key I could keep it the best it would be for the game,” Jarman says.

Well, fancy that. A man so caring about the game’s reputation that he would compromise the job he was being paid to do in order to keep it clean. By failing to report the incident Jarman failed in his duty as match referee. Or, perhaps, he wasn’t quite sure? But now that he is no longer on the ICC’s payroll and a fellow Aussie is copping some flak, Jarman suddenly finds it very easy to tell tales out of school.

“I really admire Darrell Hair for what he’s done in England. He is a guy who tells the truth and is suffering for it,” Jarman says, all puffy chested. “He is one of the best, an umpire who can lie straight in bed.”

And a damn fine, dinkum Aussie, too.

Jarman claims he became suspicious of South Africa’s tactics after noticing the ball would thrown to the same two fielders, no matter where it had been fielded.

“I picked up the binoculars and started watching closer,” he told the newspaper. “Even when the bowler fielded the ball he threw it to players specifically designated to mess around with the ball. I saw Allan Donald (who Jarman insists was not one of the players tampering with the ball) all of a sudden start swinging the baIl everywhere on the television and I thought ‘hullo what’s going on here?’

Any chance Hair thought the same thing during the fourth Test between England and Pakistan? ‘Hullo, what’s going on here? the ball is swinging everywhere! We can’t have that!’

For all the hairgel, suncream, vaseline and sugary saliva that has been pasted on the side of balls for a century or more, the first official penalty is imposed on Pakistan without any evidence.

No wonder they’re fed up.

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