Why did Michael Vaughan apologise to Zaheer Khan for what appeared to be, on the surface, nothing more than a juvenile jape?
“If it offended Zaheer in any way, we apologise but there were no jelly beans thrown from the slips,” Vaughan said after losing the second Test, and the loss of face over what the tabloids here have dubbed the ‘Beangate’. “Two jelly beans were left on the floor by the stumps during the drinks interval,” Vaughan said.
Oh, were they? So why did they appear again on the pitch moments later, when Zaheer was about to face the next ball? Vaughan possesses a face that predisposes people to believe him, and his manner appears open and frank — but if you can see through the lines, you’ll detect a lie. “There were no jelly beans thrown from the slips,” said the captain. Of course they were not thrown from the slips — Alastair Cook, the angelic perpetrator of the deed, was at short leg. And they were not merely “on the floor by the stumps”, Mr Vaughan — they were at the crease, where it would be impossible to ignore for the batsman taking guard.
Vaughan was not lying — he was merely putting a spin on the incident after his team had landed a low blow on Zaheer Khan. In county cricket, bowlers are known to use sugary candies and sweets to alter the condition of the ball — to impart shine and make it heavy on one side so that it could wobble in the air.
Zaheer had made the ball talk on the first day — a wet, wild day when conditions were favourable for swing and England slumped without a fight. When Zaheer came in to bat on the third day, jellybeans were placed on the pitch — it was no accident, as Vaughan would like us to believe. It was a clear taunt at Zaheer, an implication his performance was not entirely above board, that he had employed underhand means to grab 4 wickets.
That was the reason Zaheer, after he found that candies had reappeared on the pitch, advanced on the man he perceived as the most combative Englishman close by, Kevin Pietersen. “Maybe I picked the wrong one, but I just was not bothered at that time,” Zaheer said later and added: “I felt it was insulting.”
The implication of cheating has a preamble. When Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis routed England in 1992, reverse-swinging with devastating effect, all of England howled that it was cheating. The two took 41 wickets between them in the three-Test series, which Pakistan won 2-1.
Two years ago, there was a reversal, when England took back the Ashes from Australia, aided by reverse-swing by Simon Jones and Andrew Flintoff.
Referee to meet captains
Match referee Ranjan Madugalle has summoned Michael Vaughan and Rahul Dravid for a talk before the third and decisive Test begins at the Oval on August 9.
“I will have a word with both captains before the match at the Oval,” Madugalle said. “The most important thing is for them to realise there are responsibilities and they are to be cascaded down through the rest of the team.” He, though, did not deem it fit to go into the specifics of the jellybeans saga. “The umpires are arbiters of fair play and they took action as they deemed right at the time,” he said.