My ball tampering shame

Our nation reels under our greatest cricketing controversy since Trevor Chappell’s infamous underarm bowling incident.
And yet, amid the howls of outrage from the public, I am reminded of another cricket controversy – the day my own team was accused of ball tampering.
I was the star batsman of the mighty Pryde Under Nines. Our captain was “Booger” Jones. He got his name after someone allegedly saw him picking a winner during the interschool carnival.
Of course, in the heady days before Facebook and smartphones, there was no actual evidence that he had picked his nose. It was his word against his accuser’s … and, naturally, according to the laws of the playground, everyone sided against “Booger”.
I mention this only to emphasis that “Booger” already had form as a controversial, possibly Shakespearean figure.
The arch enemies of the Pryde Under Nines were the South Pryde Under Nines. The enmity between us was mutual. Their cheersquad – consisting of their diehard dads, bored mums and the morbidly obese – would shout “cheater, cheater, mango eater” whenever we went on the field.
For our part, we swore we’d never seen so many “eight-year-olds” with moustaches before.
Even today, Southie adults will shout out  “cheater, cheater, mango eater” to anyone they see on the street from Pryde.
And we have to swallow the insult … because of our great shame.
We had just batted an abysmal 55 against South Pryde in the last match of the season. Hackles were up because just last week one of the South Pryde dads had “accidentally” run over Booger’s BMX with his Land Rover.
Booger pulled us into a huddle. “We’re getting thrashed here. I’m captain, and I say we … tamper the ball.”
Tamper the ball? We would be a disgrace to the “baggy mauve” … our uniforms being mauve because Booger’s mum had left our uniforms in the washing machine too long with pink socks.
“Our dads would kill us!” I said.
“What are you kids talking about there?” asked a “Southie” dad.
“I’ll buy you a pack of musk sticks,” said Booger.
“Damn you!” I cursed. He knew my price. No child under 10 could resist the lure of musk sticks. He had corrupted me. “OK, so how are we going to do it?”
“With this,” said Booger, holding up a One-Metre-Long Licorice Roll, saved from an Easter Show bag by “Typhoid” Timmy. “We’ll wrap this around the ball.”
“You can’t put one metre of prime licorice around a cricket ball!” I shouted.
Booger considered this. “You’re right. Make it 50cm.” He turned to me. “You do it. You’re our worst bowler. They won’t suspect you.” Booger’s eyes lit up like a demon’s. He wanted to win at all costs. His ambition scared me.
I picked up the 50cm of licorice … then stuffed it down my pants.
“Alea iacta east,” said that weird kid who previously went to a private school.
We could tell right away that the plan was working.
Thanks to the licorice, the ball had no “roll”. What would have been easy fours turned out to be singles. The Southie batting attack was blunted. Southie dads yelled in anger.
We could win this thing after all.
Disaster struck in the 10th over. “Bomber” Brown blocked a ball rather than swinging for the fence. The ball stopped in front of him. And the licorice peeled off.
“Perfidy!” he shouted.
We were busted. It was on for young and old. Fistfights between dads in the car park. Social snubbings between mums in the supermarket. BMX tyres were slashed.
“Will we ever learn to trust again?” proclaimed the school newspaper, printed off the MicroBee computers.
Our principal immediately called for “Booger” to stand down as captain.
“It is unbelievable that our cricket team would be involved in ball tampering,” he thundered. “Don’t you know that you are role models for the under eights?”
As we hung our heads in shame, he continued. “The entire team will be on schoolyard clean-up duties for the next month. Now go and take a long, hard look at yourselves.” “Booger” was never the same afterwards. He gave away all of his Star Wars toys – including the extremely rare Boba Fett with accessory rocket launcher, a sign of his mental torment – before his family moved out of the district.
We had tarnished Under Nines cricket forever.
One could say the shame of the “Licorice 11” lives on to this day.

My thriller Game Of Thrones: The Spartan is out now as an ebook and paperback.

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