Faf du Plessis – incompetent but not immoral

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We can thank Faf du Plessis for inadvertently giving us the fantastically earnest Cricinfo headline: ‘No zips on cricket kit by 2015’. This brave new world is to be created because he was caught raking the ball across a zip on his kecks, presumably in a bid to rough it up.

Well aware that cricket treats ball tamperers like war criminals, Faf has gone to the trouble of making some vague comments about the matter.

His first line of defence is:

“When the on-field umpires inspected the ball, there wasn’t a scratch mark or anything untoward on the ball. In fact, it was in excellent shape and wasn’t reverse-swinging at all. Basically, the condition of the ball hadn’t been changed, and that’s why I think my penalty was not as harsh as the sentences given out for other similar incidents.”

This says to us that he wasn’t doing his job very well. He is an incompetent ball scratcher – which can also double as an insult.

His second line of defence is:

“I pride myself on being a morally good person, and that’s why this past week has been so difficult, as people have been quick to label me a cheat.”

The thing about morals is that they are internally generated. It’s an individual thing. You can do something you consider morally wrong without breaking the law, but in different circumstances you can also break the law without feeling like you have morally transgressed.

As far as cricket as a whole is concerned, we suggest that the unwritten code is that ball tampering only becomes morally wrong at the point at which you are caught.


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  1. All sports place different values on rule transgressions. Punch someone in the face in rugby and you get banned for a couple of matches. Introduce a second ball (as I once saw Shane Cooper do at St Helens) and the ban is closer to ten matches. It seems that the cooler the decision, the worse the crime. Ball tampering is a very calculated act of cheating, hence its status. It’s also clear that du Plessis is upset because of what people might think, rather than what he thinks himself.

    But all this moral thinking has made me wonder what the great philosophers would have to say on the matter. Aristotle doesn’t mention cricket at all, but J-P Sartre offers these words on comparative ethics:

    Philosophy holds true
    That one cannot construe
    A route from an “is” to
    An “ought”.

    So for Faf du Plessis
    (Whose morals are messy),
    It’s all fine unless he
    Gets caught.

    1. If I remember the Kant I once studied, I don’t think Kant would disapprove so much of the ball-tampering, provided Faf actually thought ball-tampering was okay. He’d be less okay with ball-tampering and then saying you didn’t do it.

  2. Much has to do with how it is called. ‘Tampering’ brings with it a palpable sense of wrong-doing. If it were called ‘thread picking’ (prompting the imagery of a knitting nun) or ‘ball biting’ (bringing the charming picture of Shahid gorging on the cherry into focus), most people would have zero problems with it.

  3. I used to pick the seam on occasion, but eating the ball or scuffing it on my zip would have been a bit too much even for me.

    1. This is exactly it. Show me a bowler who doesn’t tamper and I’ll show you someone not trying hard enough. Yet if a batsman blatantly edges the ball and doesn’t walk it’s “part of the game”.
      Personally I find it very important to remain sun smart when I play cricket. Unfortunately you can end up with a surplus on your hands which then gets wiped onto the trousers. If after 10-15 overs when the shine starts to fade the ball happens to pick up some of this sunscreen inadvertently during maintenance… well… I’m hardly to blame am I?
      Until the Faf incident I didn’t realise that cricket trousers even had zippers (I use track pants style) although now I’m considering upgrading my wardrobe.

    2. Wait a second, you guys play at a level which necessitates ball tampering and such? I thought everybody here spent their time lazily talking about other people. And cats.

      What’s going on KC? Has there been a shift in readership I was not aware of? I feel useless.

    3. With all the cards stacked in the batsmans favour show me a level of play that DOESN’T necessitate ball tampering.

    4. I’ve only ever played Parks level cricket. The quality of the ‘pitches’ provides all the assistance any bowler could possibly need.

    5. I haven’t played since I was 17, and I’m 35 now. Back then, we got to use used match balls from the senior sides, some of which had been bounced off the pavilion roof several times by Sanjay Manjrekar. The odd ball was almost completely spherical, no prominent seam whatsoever. As a leggie, I needed to grip the ball, so out came the thumbnail.

  4. When someone gets caught ball tampering, do other ball tamperers snigger about what an incompetent ass he is?

    1. Yep. The only thing worse than going to the trouble of bending the rules without getting any benefit is getting caught while doing it.

  5. As a well known authority on ethics, I must protest at the schoolboy errors in the attempts at moral philosophy above.

    There are three main schools of ethics – teleology, deontology and virtue ethics.

    The teleological approach to this problem is straightforward. The match is on telly – it’s simply logical that you’ll get caught if you tamper. Schoolboy error, Mr Du Plessis.

    Deontology is virtue based ethics – Kantian as Dan M remembers rather fuzzily. Kant wrote at length about the categorical imperative. It was categorically imperative that Du Plessis at the very least made the ball swing if he was going to risk his reputation on a zipper. Bill Clinton similarly failed to control his use of zips and look what happened to him.

    Du Plessis thinks of himself as virtuous, but Aristotle might have begged to differ. You are much mistaken if you think that Ari had nothing to do with cricket – he bowled a mean doosra that Plato himself said he couldn’t always pick.

    Get it right, folks, or it will be remedial “morals for morons” courses for the lot of you.

    1. Of course I meant that deontology is duty-based ethics. Morals for morons for the whole of Wednesday for me – don’t expect to hear from me again till Thursday.

  6. On a mostly unrelated note, Enamul Haque is the TV umpire in the New Zealand Bangladesh game today. I suppose he’d be all for the Afridi method…

    1. It’s dangerous to extrapolate from an individual innings against a weak bowling attack. But there is now no possible doubt that every English batsman will score a century every time they bat in the Ashes.

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