Even though I’m a follower of cricket, particularly the five-day Test Match variety, I have to admit that the Australian Squash Ball Incident of 2007 – branded Gillygate by the Aussie media – completely passed me by. Maybe it was because it happened during a one-day limited over match, even though that match was the final of cricket’s prestigious World Cup tournament, held every four years. On the other hand, maybe it was because ‘my team’ England had long since been knocked out of the tournament, not being particularly effective at the one-day game.
However, I suspect that it was more likely that I’d completely forgotten that the tournament was still being contested having been going for nearly 7 weeks. In fact, the final was the competition’s 51st match meaning that it had taken 50 matches, played in locations throughout the Caribbean (and even Guyana in South America) to eliminate all but 2 of the 16 teams competing.
But back to the squash ball incident.
Gillygate: Adam Gilchrist’s Squash Ball
The World Cup final, held on April 28th in Bridgetown, Barbados, was won by Australia who beat Sri Lanka by 53 runs. Big-hitting wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist was Australia’s top scorer with 149 runs made off just 104 balls, a highly impressive innings and strike rate in terms of the one-day game.
But after the match, Gilchrist revealed that he’d inserted a squash ball into one of his batting gloves to provide ‘extra grip’ (see video clip).
The Sri Lankan cricket authorities immediately accused Gilchrist of unethical behaviour in using the ball. A debate raged in the media for weeks even though the Marylebone Cricket Club, the body responsible the rules of cricket, judged that Gilchrist had not contravened the spirit or laws of the game. A Gichrist’s Squash Ball ‘Unethical’ page even appeared on Facebook (see link).
Squash Ball Physics
Later in 2007, Vijitha Herath of the University of Paderborn, Germany, wrote to Elakiri.com, the Largest Sri Lankan Online Community to offer ‘a scientific perspective’ (sic) on the squash ball in cricket glove affair. You can read it at:
Herath’s ‘scientific perspective’ comprised a series of statements unsupported by any scientific evidence whatsoever. It appeared together with the following graphic bearing the less than objective title ‘Magic ball exposed’.
Herath concluded that “Gilchrist’s use of the squash ball allowed him to hit the ball further in the field”. He also stated, in decidedly unscientific language, that, “the squash ball was used not purely as a protective gear but, as a performance enhancer to a player who was playing his last World Cup innings and did not care of the consequences, but was hell bent on rubbing some glory upon himself.”
No bias there then.
The Indian Squash Ball Incident
Herath’s attempt to undermine Adam Gilchrist’s reputation as well as to simultaneously mindread his intentions did not prevent Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the captain of India’s cricket team, from copying Gilchrist. In February 2009, Dhoni inserted a squash ball into one of his gloves before he batted in the first one-day international – again against Sri Lanka – in Dambulla. He made an unbeaten 61 as his team beat Sri Lanka by 6 wickets (see link).
The Sri Lankan cricket authorities were, in cricketing parlance, caught on the back foot when asked to comment on Dhoni using a squash ball, as well as on history repeating itself.
“No, I am not aware about this but would certainly find out whether we can lodge an official complaint about it”, said Duleep Mendis, Sri Lanka Cricket’s Chief Executive Officer.
Postscript: Google Keywords
The Australian Squash Ball Incident has now passed into cyberspace mythology, if there is such a thing. Gilchrist squash ball is now a registered Google Keyword.
At the last count, it gave 6240 results.