Like all Australians, I was horrified to wake up to the news from Cape Town. The Australian captain, Steve Smith, had admitted to cheating.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Smith. He’s a dedicated cricketer. He leads with his bat. He’s committed to doing the best for his country.
He didn’t make a mistake. He had a terrible lapse of judgement – particularly in asking Bancroft, a young member of the team, to do the dirty work.
There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind Smith should be punished. But calls for a lifetime ban, even from the captaincy, are overdone.
In 2016 a player by the name of Faf Du Plessis had a lolly in his mouth, allowing him to shine up the ball. He was found guilty by the ICC of ball tampering but was allowed to play in the next game.
Hashim Amla described the allegations as a “really ridiculous thing”.
Rather than owning up to the problem, South Africa consistently denied it was an issue and ignored the harsh judgement of others.
But it wasn’t even his first offence. In 2013, he was found guilty of tampering with the ball by rubbing it against a hidden trouser zip. He did not contest the charge.
Yet two years on, Faf Du Plessis is South Africa’s captain.
I point this out merely to show that this is not the first, nor will it be the last, time a cricketing captain has fallen foul of the ball tampering rules.
We obviously cannot say for certain, but it’s doubtful that Du Plessis, having done this multiple times, was acting alone. Sadly this is all too common in cricket.
One of the tougher parts to swallow is that Smith owned up to pre-meditating the act. We’ll never truly know what happened inside that change room to spark that conversation. But it was wrong, and Smith should be punished.
However, there’s no doubt that others in the cricketing world have been given second chances. So should Bancroft and Smith. They are two talented, dedicated cricketers who have given their all for Australia.
It would be a loss for the game for them to go. And when looking at this dirty saga, we ought to keep things in perspective.
South Africa didn’t lose a class player who made a mistake.
Neither should we.