David Warner & Steve Smith Bear The High Price of Cheating at Cricket

CRICKET Australia, the sport’s governing board in the country, removed Mr. Smith as captain and David Warner from the vice captain, both were barred from play for a year. A third conspirator, Cameron Bancroft, a batsman, was barred for nine months. The Australian cricket team’s ball-tampering saga has leached into talks at the highest levels of government and could cost Cricket Australia up to $1 billion in the years ahead.



Now the Australian team has been caught in the same cheat during their third test match against South Africa. The results have been catastrophic for the players directly involved. Australian captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner have been sent home and banned from first class cricket for a year. The bowler involved, Cameron Bancroft has also flown back to Australia and given a nine-month ban. Controversially the team coach, Darren Lehmann has not been censured even though there is circumstantial evidence that he knew precisely what his players were up to.

There was a time when, if someone bent the rules, the protest would be: “That’s not cricket!” But in this sense, sadly cricket has not been cricket for some time. Over twenty years ago, in between overs, an England captain was seen to be busy scuffing one side of a cricket ball with sand in his pocket. Ball-tampering allows a bowler to deliver reverse swing, whereby the ball moves unexpectedly as it hurtles toward the waiting batsman.

The Australian tour of South Africa had already been marred by the aggressive behavior of the Australian players on the pitch. A feature of the Australian game has long been “sledging”, which at its mildest involves threatening glares, especially from bowlers. But it often takes the form of offensive and provocative words. Thus South Africa’s first real black cricketing star, Kagiso Rabada, now rated the world’s top bowler, came in for torrents of abuse from Australian players. Hugely provoked by this bullying, Rabada lost his temper and had an on-field confrontation with the Australian captain for which he received a match ban

The impact of this scandal back in Australia has been considerable. The Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that it had bitterly disappointed the whole nation. Captain Smith has lost a lucrative contract endorsing a breakfast cereal and a financial group that had been sponsoring the whole team has withdrawn support reckoned at some $15 million. Other backers of Australian cricket are in the process of making similar decisions.

 

A five-day cricket test is a strategic and indeed a psychological battle. But name-calling and abuse have no part of it. And if a team wants a scuffed ball, they can organize it by putting on a slow bowler whose deliveries, always down one side of the wicket, will be smashed over the boundary. After an over or two of this punishment, half of the ball will have taken a battering and can be given to a fast bowler to achieve the often-deadly reverse swing.

Respected former umpire John Holder said this week that cricket was about winning “and players will cheat”. This is a baleful reflection on a sport that is revered and followed in much of the world with an intensity that arguably exceeds even that given football.

Cricket purists blame falling standards on the arrival of big money limited-over games with players abandoning the traditional cricket whites and being made to play in “multicolored pajamas” with (shock horror) a white ball and at night. However to its immense credit, the hugely wealthy Indian Premier League, has not hesitated in dropping Smith and Warner from their competition. In January each man had signed million dollar contracts to play in the IPL this season. For these two players, the price of cheating has been extremely high.

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