Since the sandpaper ball-tampering scandal, Australian players have received just one ICC code of conduct breach compared to 11 handed to England cricketers.
After Australia owned the title for years, England are becoming cricket’s new bad boys.
Stuart Broad yesterday became the latest England player to be punished by the ICC during a fiery Test series in South Africa.
Broad was fined by the ICC for the “use of an audible obscenity” towards South African captain Faf du Plessis during the fourth Test in Johannesburg on Monday. Du Plessis escaped penalty himself after he bumped his shoulder into England wicketkeeper Jos Buttler during the heated exchange with Broad.
Earlier in the series the ICC handed penalties to Buttler and teammate Ben Stokes, and to South Africans Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada, the latter of whom missed the fourth Test due to an accumulation of demerit points.
Rabada was banned by the ICC for two Tests during the sandpaper series after an aggressive send-off to Steve Smith in which he screamed in his face and instigated a shoulder collision with the Aussie batsman.
Then his ban was controversially overturned on appeal and he did not miss a single Test. In the very next match Australian cricket reached a nadir as the trio of Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft conspired to ball tamper.
That resulted in year-long bans for the former pair, a nine-month suspension for Bancroft and an unprecedented level of public scrutiny on the Australian team culture.
Up to that point, Australia had long been considered the most hostile team in world cricket. Then-Australian coach Darren Lehmann seemed to revel in this belligerence, having been a noted sledger as a player. While in charge of the side, he even went as far as labelling Broad a blatant cheat for not walking in the 2013 Ashes, calling on Aussie crowds to “give it to” the Englishman and saying he hoped the bowler “cries and goes home”.
After Lehmann resigned in the wake of the sandpaper incident, Australia made a concerted effort to rid the team of its nasty edge. They installed the calm and amiable Tim Paine as captain and replaced Lehmann with Justin Langer, who began voicing home-spun philosophy about “elite honesty” and his players aiming to “make Australians proud”.
Langer was saying the right things. But the proof would be in the pudding. Nearly two years on from the disgrace in South Africa, it is inarguable Australia are a better behaved, more likeable team. They haven’t gone soft either. They have just eschewed, for the most part, the mindless antagonism they exhibited too often previously.
According to the ICC website, only one Australian has been punished for breaking the body’s code of conduct since the ball-tampering fiasco. That sanction was handed to Adam Zampa during the 2019 World Cup when he swore loudly in Australia’s match against the West Indies.
Just one minor ICC code of conduct breach by an Australian in 22 months since the sandpaper scandal proves Langer and Paine have improved the team culture. Not only were Bancroft, Smith and Warner banned during that series in SA, but the Aussies also racked up three other code of conduct breaches.
Mitch Marsh was punished for swearing at Rabada, Nathan Lyon was fined for his ball-drop send-off of AB de Villiers and Warner was penalised for his crazy confrontation with Quinton de Kock. That is an extreme concentration of poor behaviour within a single series by Australian players.
Then Langer and Paine talked the talk and the Aussie players honoured them by walking the walk. That’s not to suggest the Australian team is now angelic. That was never necessary, though. They just needed to be decent.
While the Aussie side set about trying to rebuild their shattered image, their Ashes foes have been racking up ICC penalties at a flying rate.
Since the sandpaper series, these are the number of ICC code of conduct breaches by each major international team: England (11 breaches), West Indies (seven), Bangladesh (seven), India (five), South Africa (three), Sri Lanka (three), Pakistan (two), New Zealand (one), and Australia (one).
Of England’s 11 breaches, Broad, James Anderson, Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow each racked up two, while Buttler, Stokes, and Jofra Archer received one apiece.
Step aside Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, the real bad boys are England.