Every team indulges in ball-tampering. Let’s get that bit clear.
Ever since Pakistan’s iconic fast bowlers mastered the deadly art of reverse swing in the 1980s, teams across the planet have been on the lookout for ingenious ways to ‘shine’ and ‘maintain’ the ball once it gets old in Test cricket. Some methods like applying saliva on the ball are allowed by the ICC while others like scratching the ball while cleaning it need constant monitoring to be detected.
Even so, every team tries its best to ‘make’ the old ball so that it starts to tail in and brings the fast bowlers into the picture on wickets that are not helpful.
Having said that, an attempt as blatant as the one carried out by Australia in Cape Town can’t go unpunished as captain Steve Smith admitted it was a deliberate ploy by the ‘leadership group’ to alter the condition of the ball.
The International Cricket Council has its own set of rules for ball-tampering and will hand out punishments accordingly. But the spotlight now is on Cricket Australia. Can they have a player or group that has admitted to cheating lead the team? The answer is no.
Here is something interesting. If Smith has to be replaced......Warner can't be made captain and in batting order, Bancroft can't, Khawaja can't, Marsh and Marsh can't, the bowlers are constantly fighting fitness worries.....Paine? Looking grim!— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) March 24, 2018
It’s the job of professional athletes to do whatever they can to win matches for their country. Sometimes they push the limits of what is permissible to extract those extra percentages that can be the difference between winning and losing. But even then, there are certain acts that are just too flagrant to be brushed under the carpet.
Cameron Bancroft was caught on camera hiding the piece of tape he used to scruff up the ball. It became clear that Bancroft was acting upon instructions from senior management and after the day’s play at Newlands, Smith admitted the ‘leadership group’ was involved. He refused to name names but players like David Warner and Mitchell Starc would be a part of that group.
What is of equal significance is the role of coach Darren Lehmann. Smith said the coach wasn’t involved but the same ball-tampering footage showed Lehmann on a walky-talky along with substitute fielder Peter Handscomb who was then seen on the field talking to Bancroft who later shoved the item – sticky tape – inside his underpants.
So here we have a leadership group that has been caught cheating and forced to admit it. Cricket Australia, unfortunately, doesn’t have any option but to sack Smith from his position. No team can afford to be led by a player who has cheated and admitted to doing so following discussions with other decision-makers.
This also shows the Australian management in a bad light. Remember the Smith ‘brain fade’ in India when he was caught on camera asking for the dressing room’s opinion on an lbw referral during the Bengaluru Test in 2016? Smith had said that was not a team tactic, just as the Cape Town incident was a one-off.
But how long can the Australian board afford such brain fades? This Australian leadership group has now been caught on video seeking dressing room’s assistance, almost coming to blows with opposition player (David Warner-Quinton de Kock saga), dropping the ball on a batsman after he was dismissed (Nathan Lyon on AB de Villiers) and now collectively and deliberately tampering with the condition of the ball. Heads have to roll if Australian cricket wants to put this embarrassment behind them at some point in the future.
Coming back to my original point that every team does it. Yes, everyone does it but there is an art, if you can call it that, to it – and that certainly doesn’t involve roughened sticky tape. Sweet-laced saliva, hard throws into the adjoining pitches and rubbing the ball on coarse parts of a trouser are some of the more time-tested tactics that result in a ball getting ready for reverse swing while staying close to the danger line of permissible actions.
Also, every team knows that if a player is caught, then there will be a price to pay. Most teams and players, therefore, try to keep it within limits so as to not bring their team and the game to disrepute on prime time television.
And the most staggering part of what happened in Cape Town is that the Australians, at some point, thought this was a good idea and that the numerous cameras on the field wouldn’t pick it up. What were you thinking, mate?
Cricket Australia said on Sunday that Steve Smith will remain captain while they investigate the ball-tampering scandal during the third Test against South Africa which has plunged the game into crisis.
There have been calls for Smith to step down or be sacked over the premeditated plan hatched during the lunch break on Saturday’s third day in Newlands, after the captain admitted being the mastermind.
Chief executive James Sutherland said Sunday Cricket Australia were “extremely disappointed and shocked” but added that the governing body wanted to get a clearer picture of the facts before making any decisions.
“I understand that that is not necessarily the fullness of response that everyone is looking for right now. But you will appreciate that there’s an element of process that needs to be undertaken here,” Sutherland told reporters in Melbourne.
“We will work very hard over the next couple of days to get to the bottom of it — to understand the big picture, to understand the detail and to be making further comment on that in due course.”
CA’s head of integrity and head of team performance were flying to South Africa to conduct the investigation.
Television footage showed Smith’s teammate Cameron Bancroft, 25, taking a yellow object out of his pocket while fielding in the post-lunch session and appearing to rub it on the ball.
He was later charged with attempting to change the condition of the ball.
Sutherland said he had not spoken to Smith but stressed repeatedly he was unhappy about the incident.
“I have very strong and clear views about the responsibility of the Australian cricket team to play the game in the right spirit,” he added.
“And I don’t think anyone will be under any illusions as to what I think about this.”
Smith, 28, has said he would not quit, adding: “I still think I’m the right person for the job.”
The CA chief said Australian cricket fans had “every reason to wake up and not be proud of the team”.
“This is a very sad day for Australian cricket. I’m not happy about this at all … And I feel like Australian cricket fans feel right now.”
— Sport360° (@Sport360) March 25, 2018
There was widespread disbelief and anger in Australia as the news hit the headlines on Sunday morning, with Smith’s predecessor Michael Clarke saying he was feeling “pretty emotional”.
“I can’t believe if the leadership group has made a decision to do this, that they have gone and got the young kid (Bancroft) who is playing his eighth test match to do that,” Clarke told broadcaster Channel Nine.
Clarke said he felt sorry for Smith, but added that the tampering was “blatant cheating”.
“It is disgraceful. It is not accepted by anyone. Particularly in Australia. We’ve got the best bowling attack in the world. We don’t need to cheat to beat anybody.”
Players’ body the Australian Cricketers Association said in a statement Sunday that “it seems serious errors of judgement have been committed”.
“It is right for match officials and Cricket Australia to investigate the full extent of what has transpired. Cricket is a sport synonymous with the highest standards of behaviour,” the statement said.
“Standards which must be observed at all times. And standards upheld and nurtured by generations of players.”
Bancroft was caught on television cameras appearing to rub a yellow object on the ball, and later said: “I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I want to be here (in the press conference) because I want to be accountable for my actions.”
Smith added: “The leadership group knew about it. Obviously today was a big mistake on my behalf and the leadership group’s behalf as well, but I take responsibility. I need to take control of the ship. This is something I’m not proud of.”
Television footage showed Bancroft, 25, take an object out of his pocket while fielding in the post-lunch session on the third day of the Test at Newlands.
He was spoken to by umpires Nigel Llong and Richard Illingworth during the 43rd over of South Africa’s second innings after appearing to have the object in his hand after fielding the ball at cover.
While the umpires were conferring, Bancroft then appeared to place a small yellow object in his underpants.
When the umpires went across to talk to him he reached into a pocket and showed them what seemed to be a different object — a soft pouch for sunglasses. The umpires took no action and did not change the ball.
Needless to say, the incident rocked the cricketing world to its core. Here are the reactions from a stunned cricketing world.