Kevin Pietersen did not take at all well to the suggestion that he was among the batsmen accused of cheating the DRS system by putting silicone tape on the side of his bat during the 2013 Ashes.
With claims from Channel 9 news in Australia quickly becoming a talking point on both sides of the world, Pietersen hit back swiftly on Twitter.
Horrible journalism yet again! My name brought up in hotspot crisis suggesting I use silicon to prevent nicks showing! Such hurtful lies..👎— Kevin Pietersen (@KP24) August 7, 2013
I am never afraid of getting out! If I nick it, I'll walk.. To suggest I cheat by covering my bat with silicon infuriates me..— Kevin Pietersen (@KP24) August 7, 2013
How stupid would I be to try & hide a nick when it could save me on an LBW appeal, like in 1st innings where hotspot showed I nicked it..— Kevin Pietersen (@KP24) August 7, 2013
England are now demanding an apology from the news channel, and unless there is another as-yet unknown twist to this saga, their frustration is understandable. Their credibility and honesty has been challenged, and they are defending themselves.
To break this story down simply, three key factors are at play.
1. It's legal
The practice of putting adhesive tape on your bat is permitted by the Laws of the Game. Law 6 (the bat) is succinctly explained in the MCC's online edition of the laws:
Providing neither 4 above nor 7 below is contravened,
(a) solely for the purposes of either
(i) protection from surface damage to the face, sides and shoulders of the blade or
(ii) repair to the blade after damage material that is not rigid, either at the time of its application to the blade or subsequently, may be placed on these surfaces. Any such material shall not extend over any part of the back of the blade except in the case of (ii) above and then only when it is applied as a continuous wrapping covering the damaged area.
(For total clarity you can consult the laws via the link above, but in short, point 4 covers the fact that an adhesive can be added to the blade, while point 7 adds that any material used on the bat must not damage the ball.)
So if any batsman wants to use tape, that's their call. You can make an argument over whether it is in the spirit of the game to use tape to fool DRS, but then you're treading into treacherous moral territory. How do you know whether a batsman's motivation for using tape is to gain an advantage, or a genuine part of caring for their bat?
2. Are England doing this to their blades anyway?
All eyes were on England's willow when they took to practice for the fourth Test in Durham on Wednesday.
Yesterday, Pietersen, along with Alastair Cook, Jonny Bairstow and Stuart Broad, all spent time in the nets at Durham with bats that had no sign of tape anywhere near their outside edges. Only Broad’s bat appeared to have a shiny coating that covered both blade and edges, but that appeared to be there to facilitate adverts rather than to beat Hot Spot.
So either England's batsmen made swift alterations to their bats, or it wasn't as widespread an issue as the original claims indicated.
3. The ICC have moved to deny they're even investigating the accusations
Hours after the initial reports spread, the International Cricket Council issued a forceful statement of denial on the claims:
The International Cricket Council (ICC) has today dismissed reports linking it to any investigation into alleged attempts by any player to “cheat” the effectiveness of the Hot Spot technology during the current Ashes series between England and Australia.
An Australian television station alleged that ICC General Manager Cricket, Geoff Allardice was flying from ICC headquarters in Dubai to Durham, the venue of the fourth Ashes Test, to investigate the matter.
However, David Richardson, the ICC Chief Executive, said today: “These media reports are totally incorrect. Geoff Allardice is meeting with both teams and umpires to see how we can best use the DRS and the available technology going forward in the next two Test matches. It has nothing to do with any players.”
The DRS has plenty of problems as it is, especially with Hot Spot's thermal-mapping technology having failed on several occasions in the 2013 Ashes already. It may be the case that the MCC will have to outlaw the use of tape in the future if they feel it is a deliberate attempt to deceive DRS (and with modern bats both so plentiful and purpose-built, is tape any longer a necessity in any case?).
But for now both sides are playing within the rules, and don't deserve to be accused of underhand tactics.