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    A Jewish view of ball tampering – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. The ball tampering scandal has shaken the cricket world. Is there a Jewish perspective?

    A. Cricket has become a religion for some people, but there are moral limits to what bowlers, batsmen and others should allow themselves or be allowed. Better not to have cricket (or any sport!) if there are no standards.

    Whether it is test cricket or any other kind, everything must be above board and beyond reproach. It is like business ethics, where the unequivocal Biblical rule is “Just weights and measures shall you have” (Lev. 19:36, Deut. 20:10, 23).

    Whatever you are involved in, you must not harm another person or compromise your own conscience. Even if your honesty and integrity do harm to your cause, even if they mean that your place in a team is affected, even if your team is deprived of a win, you have to do the right thing (Psalm 15).

    There are all sorts of dodges which you can resort to: but if they smell even a little bit iffy, they’re not for you. Why do I use the word “smell”? Because there is a halachic concept that prohibits not only the wrong thing but something that seems like it.

    So you’re going to tell me that sport is very cut-throat and it has no room for saints?

    The Jewish answer is twofold:
    1. sport must never be above ethics, and if it is there’s something wrong;
    2. whatever you do, you have to try to be a saint. We are told in Pir’kei Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers (2:5), “In a situation where there is no man (i.e. no mensch), you must try to be a man”.

    So you’re going to tell me that you just have to win this match? Good luck to you, but win because you’re good, not because you cheated to get there.

    So you might lose the game? Winning is nice, but being clean is even better.

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