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England have no moral high ground over ball tampering

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14th September, 2019
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England’s 2005 Ashes team ball tampered, their former captain Mike Atherton ball tampered and another ex-skipper, Michael Vaughan, has suggested both James Anderson and Stuart Broad were involved in ball tampering.

That is why it’s so odd that many English pundits, ex-players and fans have been trying to claim the moral high ground over tampering.

The latest candidate is Monty Panesar, who slammed Steve Smith in an Indian newspaper, claiming he should always be known as a cheat and should never be considered a cricketing great because of the sandpaper incident.

Only last week Panesar’s former team-mate Steve Harmison was taunting Smith, saying the Aussie can’t be forgiven and would be remembered above all as a cheat.

Yet both have strong links to ball tampering. Panesar wrote in his autobiography that he ball tampered with his zipper and that his national team-mates used sun cream and mints.

Meanwhile, Marcus Trescothick – Harmison’s former team-mate – wrote in his autobiography that he was the designated ball tamperer in the 2005 Ashes side, using specifically chosen mints to help gain the wild reverse swing England’s quicks achieved that summer.

Trescothick in no way portrayed his actions as those of a rogue operator. Rather, he gave the impression the whole team was in on it, that it was systematic tampering. This is the same team that was feted again and again this series by commentators and fans.

Yet some of those same English spectators have run the risk of a hoarse throat screaming abuse over and over and over at Smith, David Warner or Cameron Bancroft – or all three.

Cameron Bancroft

(AP Photo/Halden Krog)

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That trio brought shame upon Australian cricket. What they did was inexcusable, they deserved to be harshly punished and duly received a tougher penalty than any other nation would hand out.

Mere weeks after the sandpaper incident, Sri Lankan captain Dinesh Chandimal was caught ball tampering by the ICC, yet his country not only refused to punish him but backed him as if he was the victim.

South African cricket authorities acted similarly when their skipper Faf du Plessis tampered not once but twice.

Funnily enough, despite South Africa being the victims of the sandpaper incident, South African players, ex-cricketers, pundits and fans have been nowhere near as vicious in their treatment of the Aussie trio as have the English.

The English press and fans have gleefully used the incident as a stick with which to beat not just Smith, Warner and Bancroft but the whole Aussie team.

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They have also attempted to portray all Aussie cricketers – sometimes even Australians as a nationality – as boorish, untrustworthy people who deserve every fleck of bile being sprayed at them.

Many articles in the UK press this past 18 months have smacked of taking the moral high ground, positioning Australian cricketers as being louts compared to their English equivalents.

It seems they had forgotten. Forgotten that Ben Stokes mocked a disabled child on camera.

They had forgotten that Craig Overton was banned for two matches in county cricket for a foul-mouthed, racist tirade at a British-citizen Pakistani opponent, who he told to “Go back to your own f***ing country.”

They had forgotten the South African side and Michael Vaughan were adamant the England team ball tampered in 2010. Despite being known as one of England’s biggest media cheerleaders, Vaughan put Anderson and Broad in the spotlight over tampering in that 2010 Test series.

England bowler Stuart Broad during a bowling spell on Day 4 of the First Test match between Australia and England at the Gabba in Brisbane, Sunday, November 26, 2017.

(AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

Vaughan dedicated an entire article to this topic in the UK’s Daily Telegraph, saying of England: “There is no doubt in my mind that they were trying to change the condition of the ball”.

Think about that for a moment. This is the same former captain who led the side that Trescothick admits used to ball tamper.

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Vaughan was clearly suggesting in a national newspaper that he believed England ball tampered in South Africa. The South African team made a formal complaint to the match referee, who later cleared England, about what they believed to be persistent ball tampering in that series, with Anderson and Broad in the crosshairs.

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Vaughan agreed with the South Africans in his article.

“Stuart Broad has been stopping the ball with his boot all the way through this series,” Vaughan wrote.

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“On day three of the third Test, the cameras caught him doing this in the 15th over. Then he threw the ball to James Anderson, who had a play at the area where Broad’s spikes had created a tear.

“If this had been a game involving Pakistan, and Shoaib Akhtar or Mohammad Asif had been pictured using their fingers on the ball, there would have been uproar. As it was, Anderson is a lucky man.”

Yet both Anderson and Broad have delighted in taking digs at the Australians over the sandpaper incident, as if their own behaviour had never been called into question.

England have no moral high ground. Not in regards to ball tampering or the behaviour of their players in a wider sense.