Schedenfreude, how long has it been since we met.
I noticed something was afoot when I switched the TV on this morning. It looked like the camera was zooming in on some object in the hand of an Aussie fielder. My first reaction was chewing gum. Almost naturally the mind went to the mintage episode in the last series between these two sides (South Africa and Australia) where the Protea captain Faf Du Plessis was charged with using mint coated saliva to alter the condition of the ball. Chewing gum gate I thought.
But as the visuals closed in it looked like the object (gum or whatever) was headed to a different place instead of the pocket. In what seemed furtive and sinister from a distance the fielder Cameron Bancroft seemed to place it inside his flanneled pants.
As it turned out the item in question was a piece of tape that had been smeared with dirt or “granules” from the surface. In other words the ball had been tampered with.
In the press conference that followed there were the predictable noises. In some sense there was no other option for the skipper Steve Smith. With the visuals beamed live on the big screens and tweeted world over there was no place to hide. Contrition was predictably on display during the press conference but given the history of this Aussie team it did not seem genuine.
It also seemed bizarre that Smith would let Bancroft take the heat – it was supposedly the “leadership group” that decided it but chose to have the most junior member of the side execute it. The act itself seemed incredibly naive, risky and stupid. It would be natural to question the leadership skills of the group. To think of the marginal benefit out of a monumentally risky act seems stupid to say the least.
Given the context of the events of the series it will be hard for Australia to ever claim the moral high ground. Anything they say or do about the shenanigans of the opposition or of “not crossing the line” will be met with incredulity at best and derision at worst.
It remains to be seen what the match referee will say. Common sense suggests that anything other than the maximum demerit points will seem like a travesty of the whole points system but then again common sense isn’t common when it comes to such rulings. Inconsistencies have been rife when dealing with misbehavior on the cricket pitch. I am hoping the referee applies logic and reasoning to this but I am not holding my breath.
Steve Smith had used the term “brain fade” for an earlier misadventure. This time the words were “poor choice” “integrity” and “regret”. Hopefully the lack of any action suggesting punishment in the former case will not be true here.
It will be interesting to see how Cricket Australia reacts to this. If they want to claim the moral high ground it may be worthwhile to consider sacking the coach Lehmann (he is closer to the end of the term in any case), replace Smith as captain and ensure Smith and Bancroft stand down for the next test.
My 8 year old has been watching and following this game pretty intently this past year. Hopefully I can use this an an example of what happens when you don’t follow the rules. Any inaction here on the part of authorities will dilute this message for all young cricket watchers.