The 3rd day of the 3rd test match between South Africa and Australia played at Newlands became one of the darkest days in cricket history. The cricket world is still in shock and disbelief as a result of a ball-tampering fiasco. The ‘leadership team’ of the Australian cricket team including skipper Steven Smith, deputy David Warner and other senior players has been charged with ‘orchestrating a deliberate attempt at altering the condition of the cricket ball’. Cameron Bancroft, the newest player of the team is charged with executing the plan by tampering with the ball using some adhesive tape.
The series between the two giants in the cricketing world has already been one with drama and controversy on and off the field. Verbal spats between players, violent send-offs and constant mocking of players by fans have marred what had been a close tussle till the 3rd test. However, the Proteas were so far ahead in the game by the 3rd day of the test that desperation crept into the Aussie camp. The senior players of the Australian side including Smith, Warner, Starc, Lyon and Hazlewood mull the opportunity of getting more reverse swing by tampering the ball. Overhearing this Bancroft agrees to carry out the plan. Sadly, they forget that the 20 plus hawk-eyed cameramen on the ground would be able to capture startling footage with evidence against them. The footage includes Bancroft getting caught rubbing a yellow tape on the ball and then shoving it down his pants once his actions are shown on the giant screen. Coach Darren Lehmann is also seen talking to Peter Handscomb via a walkie-talkie indicating that ‘they are caught’ and to ‘get rid of the evidence’.
The Aussies have no choice but to admit to the allegations leveled against them. The repercussions so far have been severe. Smith and Warner were removed from the leadership mid-match with Tim Paine appointed as temporary captain. Smith and Bancroft were fined, given demerit points with Smith banned for 1 match. Add to that the Aussies ended up losing the match by a massive 322 runs. Cricket Australia and the Australian government have expressed their displeasure publicly indicating that more severe punishments would follow.
Ball tampering and corruption is not a new thing in cricket. Michael Atherton’s famous ‘dirt in the pockets’ incident, Shahid Afridi’s biting the ball incident, Sachin Tendulkar and Waqar Younis on separate occasions picking on the seam of the ball and more recently the Protea skipper Faf du Plessis getting caught using mint to shine the ball are famous incidents of ball tampering. So much money gets exchanged between different stakeholders involved in the sport that people are now willing to even sells the good name of the sport to earn a quick buck. The IPL due to start on the 7th April has not been short of controversy as well. In May 2012, 5 uncapped players were caught for spot-fixing leading to their immediate suspension from the game. On 16th May 2013, Delhi police arrested 3 players of Rajasthan Royals Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila on charges of spot-fixing. During the same season Gurunath Meiyappan, a top official of Chennai Super Kings was arrested for illegal betting. These incidents led to Rajasthan Royals and CSK being banned from IPL for 2 years.
David Richardson, the CEO of ICC in a strong message has indicated that it is now time for cricket boards to closely look into bad behavior among players. The integrity of the sport and respect to players of this magnificent gentleman’s game is at stake. The world waits to see decisions made by ICC and cricket governing bodies to tighten the loose ends in order to protect the uprightness of this beautiful game that we all love.