A cricket series involving The Australian Cricket Team seldom fails to generate material for the media, and the on-going series versus the mighty South Africa is no different. It all started off with the ugly altercations between SA wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock and Australian opener David Warner. I could use the words ‘vice-captain’ for the latter, but well, he’s been asked to step down thanks to the incident that has rocked the sporting world in general and the cricketing world in specific. Cameron Bancroft, 8 test matches old, who also opens the batting for Australia was caught in the act of ball- tampering in the 3rd test of the series. Steven Smith, who was captaining the side, admitted to knowing about the same and implementing it, and since has seen downfall for him and his team’s reputation.
For those who are unaware of the term ‘ball-tampering’, it is the act of changing the conditions of the ball on purpose to favour the bowling. Let’s take a small dive into the science of it: Reverse-swing is one trick used by the bowlers to outfox the batsmen, wherein the ball, on becoming old, swings the other way than that of what a new ball would swing (the new ball swings away from the smooth or shiny side). This is done by keeping one side of the ball smooth throughout. The act wherein the fielding side roughens one side of the ball by unfair means (for example, scratching it by fingers), thereby obtaining a smooth side on the other half is called ball-tampering.
Australians are always known to be aggressive on the sporting arenas and it isn’t any different on the cricketing field. The nation is known to be a sport-loving one and it will struggle to digest the shame caused by ‘ball-tampering’. It comes at a time when the IPL craze is looming at large and several Australians, who were involved in the disgraceful act, play a major role in the various franchises in the cash-rich tourney. The franchises are now left to re-plan their strategies to save face; For example, Rajasthan Royals, which Steven Smith is a part of, has replaced him as the captain.
Amidst all the noise that the incident has created, many a question arises. Foremost- Is this the first time of such an act committed by the team in question or is it the first time that it has surfaced? Virat Kohli, the Indian Cricket Team skipper, had voiced his words against Australia, hinting at such happenings, during the Australian tour of India in 2017. At a point of time when the world has started to take notice of the sport on serious levels, with the talks on inclusion of cricket in the Olympics going strong, such incidents go on to tarnish the image of the sport.
Secondly, should the International Cricket Council (ICC) consider stricter actions on players involving in such acts? In this cut throat competition between the top teams, sportsmanship must be given top priority. And must a team as strong as Australia, having one of the best bowling line-ups, care to indulge in unfair practices?
In a sport that is referred to as the ‘Gentlemen’s Game’, the behavior of the players is seen to be falling according to the MCC, that governs the laws of the game. There must be a line that the players must adhere to with respect to being aggressive and being sportive. And when such untoward incidents occur, it must be the duty of the respective governing bodies in the nation to take the issue seriously, to demote repetitions of such non-sportive incidents. As it stands when I write, Steven Smith and David Warner have been handed out 12-month bans while Bancroft, has been given an 9-month ban by Cricket Australia, the cricket governing body in Australia. There might be mixed opinions from all sides on the punishment handed out, but as long as it changes the way the game is played henceforth, it stands its purpose.
Fans of the game look up to the cricketers as the ambassadors of their nation, and not to mention that Australia has one of the most sincere followers of the sport at all levels and in the women cadre too- for a nation to be let down by a bunch of international sporting stars, it’d take a very long time for the bruises to heal.