S.N. Don's blog

The spirit of the game rears its ugly head

During this week, I received a gentle reminder from Freddie to pen an article with Sunday as the deadline. Once or twice, I have had a very clear idea about what to type but more often than not I struggle. Not this time. Thanks to the actions of the Australian cricket team, and in particular Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft, putting an article together has never been easier.

Let’s be abundantly clear and concise about what young Bancroft got up to. He cheated. Smith admitted discussing how to create an advantage by altering the condition of the ball. And yet, as the story and aftermath continue to evolve, the outcome is that for the rest of this Test match, Smith and Warner will not perform captain and vice-captain duties. Let this settle in the mind for a moment. They can still take part in the game but how will they be able to prove that any on and off-field discussions will not involve them? This is a pointless gesture and does nothing for the integrity of the game let alone Cricket Australia.

The punishment meted out by the ICC amounts to a one match ban for Smith. One match. One solitary Test match.

What message does the ICC sanction send out around the world? It is an absolute horlicks of a decision. How different is the behaviour of the Australian cricket team to that of a young fast bowler who accepted a sum of money to bowl a no-ball or two? How very different is this to athletes using performance enhancing drugs? How different to a footballer diving to either get an opponent sent off or to win a penalty? Cheating, whichever way one wants to dress it up, is still cheating. Does the punishment fit the crime in this latest example? Not in my opinion.

Where is the action to deter behaviour of this nature in future? Looking back over the years, our own Michael Atherton got caught rubbing dirt into the ball. Since then there have been occasions like rubbing the ball against a zip. Another when a player bit into a ball. There have also been sweets used mixed with saliva then applied to the ball. In my honest opinion, too many times have sports authorities had the opportunity to address cheating and have pretty much universally failed in their duties. For the premeditated nature and planning of the ball tampering, the authorities should impose a 2 year ban on ALL Australian international cricket. The ICC must make it abundantly clear that any actions to change the condition of the ball will not be tolerated.

To close, I do have a bit of sympathy towards Bancroft. He is a youngster and wants to forge a career in Test cricket. How long would his career have lasted had he refused to be Steve Smith’s patsy and not done as told by his captain? The very least that Cricket Australia should do is to drop Smith and Warner indefinitely and to remove Lehmann as Head Coach. The latter’s position has become completely untenable and I find it very hard to believe that Lehmann knew absolutely nothing about the plans.

As for getting away with it, how many TV cameras are deployed at Test Matches? Apparently there is now a very fine line between naivety and stupidity.

S.N. Don

Click here for other blogs