Go off the record with any professional fast bowler and the mantra of "ball tampering is never acceptable" is quickly shown to be a myth.
One first-class player I spoke to recently told me that it's common practice to "alter the condition of the ball" in total disregard of Law 42.3. It's a batsman's game, he argued, and the bowlers need every trick in the book to redress the balance.
Batsmen have better bats, flatter wickets, favourable LBW laws and shorter boundaries, yet the bowler is hamstrung by the ball condition.
He has a point.
Why is ball tampering cheating?
When you change the ball you change the way it behaves. If you shine one side it swings more. If you scuff up the other side it swings even more again. If you lift the seam the ball moves sharply off the pitch.
The balance of power shifts back towards the bowler.
But as we already know, this isn't a bad thing. It's rebalancing rather than giving bowlers an unfair advantage.
In 2006 Bob Woolmer said "Law 42.3 is an ass" and campaigned to get the MCC, the guardians of the Laws, to remove it.
This would allow bowlers scuff up one side as well as shine one side.
He said: "Every single bowler I know from the time I played in 1968 to 1984 was guilty of some sort of ball-changing."
So if everyone is already doing it, the law is lagging behind reality.
That said, the Law might be an ass, but it's still a Law with severe punishments from the umpires including penalty runs and banning from bowling in the current innings.
Yet by their own admission, many bowlers ignore the Law and 'prepare' the ball in a number of ways and get away with it without incident.
What are these ways?
Throwing on the bounce
The latest development is to scuff up one side of the ball by making the ball bounce before it arrives to the keeper.
It's almost impossible to police by the umpires and a rough surface (such as old wickets on the square) combined with a lot of shining means there is a big difference between smooth and rough sides and therefore more swing.
Made famous by Marcus Trescothick in his autobiography. The left handed English opener would suck on Murray Mints in the slips. He would then apply the sugary spit to one side of the ball, adding more shine and more swing to the ball.
Other substances have also been tried in the past including sun cream, lip salve, hair cream and furniture polish. The effects of these are not as widely known.
Lifting the seam
It perfectly legal to use a nail to clean mud or dirt from a ball, but the sneaky part is lifting the seam or quarter seam.
Lifting the seam makes it more prominent and the ball will move of the pitch more. Lifting the quarter seam aids swing.
Ball tampering is an emotive subject. By the letter of the Law it's illegal but in reality it's a widespread practice which divides opinions (Bob Woolmer, Alan Donald and Richard Hadlee have all supported a change over the years).
For those reasons, it's up to the bowler to decide whether they need to create an advantage illegally, but if you do it you won't be the first or last.
image credit: dagbo