Australian Cricket Controversy
Cricket historically is a gentleman’s game - but on the 24th of March 2018 that game was called into dishonor - thanks to the actions of one or more cricketers, including the captain of the Australian team.
In a controversial move, while up against South Africa in the Third Test which played out in front of thousands of people on television, Australian cricketer Cameron Bancroft was spotted ball tampering.
At first, Bancroft denied his actions, claiming the yellow object seen on camera was just a piece of tape. But once he knew his actions were captured on film, he came clean under duress (albeit five days later) and declared that it was in fact sandpaper.
In an act which was supposedly supported by the hierarchy of the team including the team captain and vice-captain, Bancroft claimed he was nervous. “I’ll be honest with you, I was nervous about it because with hundreds of cameras around that’s always the risk, isn’t it?” Would he have been less nervous about doing it if there were no cameras around? Perhaps this was not his first time; maybe it’s just the first time he had been caught?
Facing the consequences
As a result, Australian captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner have been banned from the cricket team for 12 months.
Smith will never be considered for a team leadership position in the future, while Warner will not be considered for a leadership position until at least 12 months after his suspension period.
Bancroft received a nine-month ban.
All three players will have to also carry out 100 hours of voluntary service to community cricket.
The three players have decided not to appeal the charges handed out to them.
Many claim that Bancroft is the victim coerced by those above him. But the truth is he knew what he was doing. At 25 years of age and 75 games under his belt, he is no newcomer to the game.
Cheating is cheating in any language or any sport.
He was totally complicit in the act of tampering with the ball. Bancroft said, “I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and I want to be here because I’m accountable for my actions.”
Although fans are upset – including the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull who called it a “shocking disappointment”- the issue will most likely die down.
Turnbull is no doubt concerned about the millions of dollars which are spent to fund sports and professional, upstanding athletes such as these.
Some like ex-cricketer Shane Warne believe that while the act is embarrassing for the team, the penalty seems to be overly harsh. He stated on Facebook, "But the jump to hysteria is something that has elevated the offense beyond what they actually did, and maybe we're at a point where the punishment just might not fit the crime."
It is indeed a severe message for other cricketers thinking about attempting a similar course of action.
Magellan Financial Group has subsequently terminated its three-year naming rights sponsorship for the Australian team which had been estimated to be worth AUD$20 million.
Warner and Smith have both lost personal sponsorship deals.
Everyone wants to get as far away from this debacle as possible.
History repeats itself
The reality is that it won’t be long before another team is caught ball tampering in the future if history is anything to go by. There will always be cheating in sport – we are only human after all! The important thing is that all parties are suitably punished and given a chance for redemption. But, cricket fans will always love their cricket no matter what!
While ball tampering is considered a serious offense, it does seem to happen on a semi-regular basis. Ball tampering accusations are continually being thrown around by all teams. And this latest incident is a reminder that the cameras are watching should anyone try to do anything which bends the rules in the slightest.
Michael Atherton, newly-named English cricket captain, made headlines back in 1994 for housing dirt in his pocket and fined 2,000 pounds. He was the first cricketer to be caught in the act of ball tampering on camera! Funnily enough, he was the same age at the time as Bancroft is today.
But it seems it is not just an act by the young and lesser experienced players as even seasoned players get caught out; although, it wasn’t until 2000 when players started to be suspended for ball tampering. Waqar Younis of Pakistan received that first honor, if you can call it that.
Win by any means necessary
The creativity of cricketers when it comes to ball tampering knows no bounds.
Imran Khan admitted that he used a bottle top to scratch the ball back in the day.
South African Faf du Plessis was filmed rubbing the ball on the zip of his trouser pocket.
Cough lozenges, mints, spikes and even teeth have all been cited to induce ball tampering at one time or another.
While spit and sweat are permitted to polish the ball, no other substance is legally allowed to be used.
When it comes to the art of ball management, it can be dried with a towel if wet and mud removed if dirty; but no other actions can be taken to alter the condition of the cricket ball. End of story! The rules won’t change, despite talk of legalizing ball-tampering over the years - the International Cricket Club (ICC) would never allow it for starters. It is a gentleman’s game, after all! Over time the issue will become less important, and the game will carry on as it always does. It’s just another chapter in the long history of the sport.
Cry baby cry
Even though Australia’s coach Darren Lehmann was cleared of any wrongdoing, he has subsequently stepped down from his role. He, like the other cricketers in question, feels much remorse and a great deal of embarrassment over the whole thing. It almost seems like yesterday when he uttered these words about Stuart Broad’s supposed cheating back in 2013, "From my point of view I just hope the Australian public give it to him right from the word go for the whole summer and I hope he cries and he goes home.”
Again, the image of the great game is in tatters. And all including Lehmann have shed a lot of tears and returned home (while the word hypocritical is being tossed around a lot!).
There is a “win at all costs” attitude in Australian cricket, so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. If the overall results are anything to go by, Australia may struggle to pull itself out of the rut.
However the team believes they are well placed and well balanced to carry on. Or are they just more empty words? What is clear, however, is that if (or when) it happens again, the ICC will have no choice but to take another hardline approach to the players and the general public may not be so forgiving a second time round.