A Sticky Wicket

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Perhaps Gentle Readers are expecting some sort of comment on the recent unpleasantness. First of all, I dislike the term ball-tampering. I prefer scuffing. It was scuffing when Mike Scott and Joe Niekro allegedly did it to baseballs, and by gum it’s scuffing when Australians allegedly do it to cricket balls. I mean, eight cricketing nations divided by a common language and whatnot, but still. Tampering just seems awfully vague. I mean, it encompasses both scuffing and slicking, doesn’t it? Or sticking the things in a humidor overnight. Or deflating, it it’s the sort of ball that is inflated. Did Major League Baseball tamper with the balls, and if so, how? No, this was scuffing, plain old straightforward scuffing, and that’s the word we should use.

If we need another noun, which as far as I’m concerned we don’t—Smith and Warner banned for scuffing does not require any further words imao—I am inclined to incident, which is the direction that ESPN’s indispensable CricInfo has chosen. Reuters seems to be using scandal, which seems inferior in many ways. It’s loaded with an unnecessary judgment, isn’t it? Particularly if paired with tampering. A tampering scandal is a tad redundant, and a scuffing scandal is difficult to pronounce, and besides sounds unfortunately like dragging one’s footwear. Also, the scandal is (I think, by implication) the response to the scuffing, not the scuffing itself. If Mssrs Smith and Warner are banned because of scandal, well, one could infer that they are innocent victims of social overreaction. They have actually been banned for scuffing, not scandal. Well, formally, anyway.

I’m pleased, though, that it hasn’t become StickyTapeGate. Trade deficit or no, the rest of the world need not import that particular bit of American verbal laziness. Wasn’t it Stephen Fry who said that we should now retire the -gate suffix and replace it with the suffix -a-lago? No, it wasn’t. But if we must associate unsavory incidents with corrupt US Presidents, I would vastly prefer this to be scuff-a-lago.

But people are different, one to another, and people of honor may well disagree about usage in such a case. However I would like to think that nobody, under any circumstances whatsoever, would be so wrongheaded as to refer to it as cricket’s #MeToo moment.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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