All the talk in the local media leading up to the first Ashes Test has centred on Australia’s conundrums, and quite rightly so – we are in Australia after all.
The Australian cricket team has been one of the top sides for a long time, have always been extremely competitive on the field, and played the game hard.
However, over the last few years they haven’t been able to replicate their enormous success, struggling especially outside Australia.
Howver, they looked settled in the Test format over the last few months. The demolition of a good English side, who themselves went through a difficult phase with disciplinary issues, meant the Aussies were moving in the right direction under captain Steve Smith.
The skipper himself was in tremendous form and the bowling was one of the best attacks Australia has ever had.
The South African sojourn couldn’t have started better for the Aussies, with a crushing win in the first Test. The Proteas were under the pump, having just lost two Tests in a row at home. The second Test disaster though, which left the vice-captain David Warner with demerit points and resulted in the ban of Kagiso Rabada, seems to have affected the visitors more than the hosts.
The fact that the ban on the genial South African bowler was reversed also seems to have not gone well with the Aussie camp.
It is hard to imagine a national cricket team captain orchestrating an act of cheating, fully aware of the cameras around the ground, and making a young team member perform the blatant act.
The coach and the entire Australian camp should have been aware of what was going on in the field, which makes this act even more ridiculous. We have seen some weird ball tampering in the past, like Shahid Afridi’s attempt to bite the ball, the English team rubbing sweets during the 2005 Ashes, and the South African captain himself trying to damage the ball using the zipper.
This, though, has probably got the most attention and it does not look good for the Aussie captain.
James Sutherland flying to South Africa to sort out the issue makes us believe that Smith might have more serious issues than the one-Test ban handed out by the ICC.
The fact that he is the captain of the side makes this even worse than it would have normally been. Smith also needs to take responsibility for dragging a young player into this mess, with Cameron Bancroft still trying to establish himself at this level.
The coaching staff are also under the hammer at this point.
Smith the captain has never been able to match Smith the batsman in terms of achievement and now it does seem like the former has brought the latter down to the ground.
It’s difficult to see Australia bouncing back on this tour and with both captain and vice-captain resigning, the selectors have a huge task on their hands. Whatever the result of this investigation, the Australian Test team needs to make a fresh start.
Steven Smith the player will come back with his reputation damaged and looking to win back his fans. His actions will display his true mental fortitude and ability to fight back.