Sad day for Australian cricket and their fans!
Our lovely game of cricket was made fun of and was struck with a major irony of life on March 24, 2018.
Rewinding to the same date three years back during the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, March 24 had turned to be one of the beautiful days in cricket. On that day fighting for their maiden berth in a World Cup final, South Africa and New Zealand, locked horns where they kept the utmost spirit of sportsmanship alive.
New Zealander, Grant Elliot’s monstrous blow on the penultimate ball of the innings that took the BlackCaps to their first-ever World Cup final left the South Africans gutted and almost all of them were down on their knees. Dale Steyn, who bowled the final over, was lying down flat on the ground pinned by the weight of South Africa’s history of World Cup failures and that’s when Elliot went and gave him a helping hand. That picture of pure sportsmanship was captured by a photographer that went viral over the social media re-defining the spirit of the game, once more.
The same date, March 24, three years later, witnessed one of the darkest days in cricket. During the third Test between Australia and South Africa at Newlands, Australian Cameron Bancroft was caught tampering the ball on cameras. Ever since the Test series has begun, one controversy after another has taken place and that went without saying that the cameramen would be watching the field with a little extra caution to capture the slightest suspicious activity.
How did they think not a single one of the gazillion cameras would spot Bancroft doing the wrong act?
As soon as the big screen showed Bancroft tampering the ball, it spread like fire on the social media and that reunited cricket fans from across the globe to take a stand against the Australians. Then a video, which was a compilation of three different camera angles capturing the whole incident, got viral on the social media. According to the video, Bancroft does something with the ball. As soon as he is shown on the big screen, Peter Handscomb sitting in the dugout is seen using the walkie-talky. Soon after that, Handscomb is sent to the field to alert Bancroft, who then tried to put the object inside his trousers.
All these activities were captured and this time there was no way Australians could get away from it because of lack of evidence. There was no scope for “being suspicious” because the videos showed the Australians were guilty.
When South Africa were at a strong position at 65 for 1 with a lead of 121, the “leadership group” in the Australian side planned to tamper the ball during the lunch break. Since Opening batsman Bancroft was in the vicinity of the conversation and he became the man to carry out the task. To put that in perspective, Steven Smith, David Warner and a few more senior men in the side were involved in the disgraceful act.
Was the vicinity part even true or Smith and Co made Bancroft the scapegoat because he was the newest of the lot and even if he would get caught, Australia wouldn’t lose much. Ever since I had begun watching Test cricket, mind you, Test cricket happened late to me, I have only heard people around me speak ill about Australia. These bunch of guys have always been associated with the things like cheating but it was always difficult to believe that under the charge of Smith and Warner, Australia could ever let their supporters down.
Now, whatever Smith and Co said, there will be questions asked. The trust has gone. And it will require a lot of removing to recover and save their almost tarnished image.
“Bud you know nothing in professional sport is done without the consent of your captain and coach… Tough times ahead,” South African pacer Dale Steyn tweeted while the ball tampering incident was just spreading on social media. And especially in the case of Bancroft, who has played less than 10 Tests, it was difficult to imagine him dare to do something like this on this own.
It is tough to comprehend what would have happened had Bancroft stuck to his ethics and denied cheating on being asked to do by his seniors?
For one more time, the post day’s play press conference was going to be not cricket but a needless controversy. The Australian team had cancelled all interviews with print and TV, as they took a hell lot of time to decide who would give the press conference before Smith and Bancroft turned up for it. Cricket press conferences are usually dull, mundane and bland and probably this was for the first time in a really long time when the media was looking forward to a press conference in cricket.
As soon as Bancroft and Smith took their seats on the stage, already curious and impatient journalists began to fire questions at them, one after the another. Bancroft revealed that he was charged with attempting to change the condition of the ball, as Smith confessed that the leadership group in the Australian dressing room was aware of it but the coaches were not involved.
Smith said that he would not step down from the captaincy and promised that it would never repeat again in his captaincy. The question here is, after planning a disgraceful act of ball tampering, making a young cricketer do that, how can Smith even lead his boys into the field on Sunday with the same respect and pride?
The shock and outrage expressed by Australian cricket fans and followers of the sport worldwide included the resignation of Smith as Australia’s captain. For once, Smith’s brain fade moment was forgotten and moved on, Warner was given the benefit of doubt that Quinton de Kock’s derogatory comments raged his fired up behaviour against him, but what now? This time he has deliberately crossed the”line” and not only broken ICC rules but also stained the spirit of the game.
Meanwhile, Cricket Australia have decided to do a proper investigation in South Africa before they make a decision on the fate of the “leadership group.”