Australian cricket hit new depths with the ball tampering scandal in South Africa.
Any excuse to cover up the happenings in the African sub-continent will only worsen the way the ‘gentleman’s game’ will be looked at from now on after their unsavoury instigation that dragged the sport to its lowest ebb.
By Steven Smith and Cameron Bancroft’s own admission of using desperate and extreme measures to change the course of the game, there is now a storm enveloping one of the most popular sports in the world putting the ICC under the pump to deal with it with the full force of its power to ensure that it will never be tolerated in the future.
The Australian ploy to gain unfair advantage over the South Africans is unforgivable as much as it will be a stain on cricket for its entirety. What Smith and his ‘leadership group’ were thinking is unfathomable in the face of the realistic fact that these days even the substance from blowing your nose can be viewed and analysed by the number of cameras installed at various points of venues worldwide. These cameras have been set up to deter players from indulging in what the Australians were sprung for.
How they envisaged getting away with it is as puzzling as it is dumb to say the least and whatever respect the team has been regenerating after a lean spell from their fans has now been shattered to a point of no redemption.
It also throws a cloud over their recent Ashes success over England and what could have transpired and may have gone undetected by a more professional ball tamperer seeing how amateurish Bancroft’s efforts were.
After years of players being indicted for similar offences worldwide, it is a bitter pill to swallow for the Australians who usually perceive themselves to be role models to the rest, always finger pointing others defects and supposed unlawful tactics.
It was a black day for Australian cricket and for the game itself sadly setting the worst example for young and aspiring players who will think it is ok to cheat and that winning was all that matters.
The obvious reaction to this sorry episode will be to sack Smith, Bancroft, Warner, and coach Darren Lehmann, (if he was aware of what was going on), and the leadership group with heavy sanctions to go with if a clear deterrent is to be executed for future offenders.
It is understood that there will be life bans on the players influencing the decision to cheat.
The focus has sharpened on Smith and Warner, after it was clarified that the lunchtime discussion did not involve the full ‘leadership group’, which has also featured Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon, but was instead undertaken by ‘senior players’.
Cricket Australia and its administrators are under the microscope for their reaction to the goings on and James Sutherland and Pat Howard who have flown in to South Africa to gather all information before reacting to it will be judged for their decisions that will leave long standing repercussions for future offenders.
The CA chief executive James Sutherland also issued a public apology to Australian followers of the game, with the Board at a delicate point in the multimillion dollar television rights negotiations for the next five years with the Nine, Ten and Seven networks and the pay television network Fox Sports.
“To our Australian Cricket Fans, we are sorry,” Sutherland said. “We are sorry that you had to wake up this morning to news from South Africa that our Australian Men’s Cricket team and our Captain admitted to conduct that is outside both the Laws of our game and the Spirit of Cricket. This behaviour calls into question the integrity of the team and Cricket Australia.”
“The decision made by the leadership group of the Australian team to act in this way is clearly contrary to the spirit of the game, risks causing significant damage to the integrity of the match, the players and the sport itself, and is therefore ‘serious’ in nature,” the ICC chief executive David Richardson said.
“As captain, Steve Smith must take full responsibility for the actions of his players and it is appropriate that he be suspended. The game needs to have a hard look at itself. In recent weeks we have seen incidents of ugly sledging, send-offs, dissent against umpires’ decisions, a walk-off, ball tampering, and some ordinary off-field behaviour.
“The ICC needs to do more to prevent poor behaviour and better police the spirit of the game, defining more clearly what is expected of players and enforcing the regulations in a consistent fashion. In addition, and most importantly, Member countries need to show more accountability for their teams’ conduct. Winning is important but not at the expense of the spirit of the game which is intrinsic and precious to the sport of cricket. We have to raise the bar across all areas.”
The match referee Andy Pycroft said he hoped Bancroft would learn from the episode.
“To carry a foreign object on to the field of play with the intention of changing the condition of the ball to gain an unfair advantage over your opponent is against not only the Laws, but the Spirit of the game as well,” he said.
“That said, I acknowledge that Cameron has accepted responsibility for his actions by pleading guilty to the charge and apologising publicly. As a young player starting out in international cricket, I hope the lessons learned from this episode will strongly influence the way he plays the game during the rest of his career.”