Op-Ed: Thorough cleansing of the beautiful game brooks no delay
It is a sad day for cricket. And for the millions of fans spread across the world who love the beautiful game. There could well be people in cricket playing countries, especially those that have received a thrashing at the hands of the Kanagaroos over the years, who would be gloating over this moment of shame for Australian cricket. But it is not a moment to rejoice for a true cricket lover anywhere. It is a moment for collective grieving – and of hoping, against hope, that something good comes out of it.
The way the team that had perfected the art of ‘mental disintegration’ of other teams under the leadership of Steve Waugh not so long ago disintegrated itself on the fourth day of the ongoing fourth Test, folding up for a paltry 107 in just 39.4 overs while chasing an improbable 430 in the second innings against South Africa at Newlands, showed the whole team was hurting grievously after it found itself in the doghouse without anyone, including Cricket Australia, coming to their defence for its illegal, immoral and uncricketer-like conduct on the third day. And it should.
This was certainly not the first instance in Test cricket when a cricketer – or even a captain – has been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. From England captain former Michael Atherton to current Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis – and even our ‘God of cricket’ Sachin Tendulkar – many illustrious cricketers have been accused of ball tampering. Some of them have also been suitably punished. From sand to fingernails to bottle corks, every conceivable tool has been used in the past by cricketers to alter the condition of the ball in a desperate bid to get some reverse swing when things have not gone their way in the field. But never has such conclusive evidence of cheating been available that leaves absolutely no room for any defence. Aussie captain Steven Smith was clearly trying to make a virtue out of a necessity when he confessed to the crime and said “If we weren’t caught, I’d still feel bad about it.” People can hardly be blamed if they chuckle at this brazenly self-serving statement of the Australian captain. It was a pathetic attempt to take the moral high ground by a great cricketer.
That Smith and the ‘leadership group’ of the team thought they could get away with something as brazen as using a ‘foreign object’ to alter the condition of the ball in this age when three (or is it four) dozen cameras keep a hawk eye on every moment, every movement in the field speaks as much about the ‘brain fade’ – a term made famous by Smith himself during the Bengaluru Test against India last year when he looked at the dressing room for advice on whether or not to go for a DRS review – that the team suffered as the Aussie credo of ‘win at all costs’ handed down to the current team it by its illustrious predecessors.
Some fans may feel that the removal from captaincy, one-Test ban and forfeiture of 100% match fees slapped on Smith and the 75% cut in match fees imposed on Cameron Bancroft, the man actually caught on camera using a yellow object to tamper with the ball, are too little considering their ‘crime’. But the ignominy of being caught doing something like this and the boos that are bound to follow Smith & Co. every time they step on to a cricket field in the future would, in this columnist’s view, be greater punishment for the Aussie team than even a five or 10 match ban could have inflicted on it.
Cricket Australia has made all the right noises since the controversy over ball tampering took the cricket world by storm on Saturday afternoon. It is possible it would live up to its promise of doing all that it can to prevent a recurrence of such unbecoming conduct by their cricketers in future.
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But it is not just about Cricket Australia and how it deals with its cricketers. There is a lesson in what happened at Cape Town for every cricket board – and every cricketer, one may add – in the world. A complete and thorough cleansing of the beautiful game brooks no delay.
(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)