The Australian cricket team isn’t new to controversy. Often cutting a polarizing figure for their fiery brand of cricket, they are a side hard not to notice. They have always been a team which prides itself on doing whatever it takes to win, but also making sure their aggression and tactics stay on the right side of the “line”. But the events of the third day on the third test between Australia and South Africa have contradicted their claims. This time, they have taken it too far.
Ball Tampering Explained!
In the sport of cricket, ball tampering is an action in which a fielder illegally alters the condition of the ball. The primary motivation of ball tampering is to interfere with the aerodynamics of the ball. Under Law 41, subsection 3 of the Laws of Cricket, the ball may be polished without the use of an artificial substance, may be dried with a towel if it is wet, and have mud removed from it under supervision; all other actions which alter the condition of the ball are illegal. These are usually taken to include rubbing the ball on the ground, scuffing with a fingernail or other sharp object, or tampering with the seam of the ball. Using sweat and saliva for shining the ball is permissible.
Australian opening batsman Cameron Bancroft has been caught red-handed trying to tamper the ball. In a shocking video clipping, Bancroft seems to be rubbing the ball with a yellow substance (which was later identified as sandpaper), and in further damning video evidence he tries to hide the sandpaper after knowing the big screen and cameras had caught him doing it. The post day press conference promised plenty, and was as shocking as expected. Bancroft and the Australian captain Smith had admitted they tried to gain an unfair advantage. In a shocking turn of events, Smith said the ‘entire leadership team’ was aware of this.
Already under pressure after the Rabada incident and the Warner-De Kock controversies, Cricket Australia’s woes have been worsened by this distastefully blatant act not in accordance with the spirit of the game.
Ball tampering isn’t new to this game though.
I In the “dirt in pocket” affair, then England captain Michael Atherton was accused of ball tampering during a Test match with South Africa at Lord’s in 1994 after television cameras caught Atherton reaching into his pocket and then rubbing a substance on the ball.
II In 2006, an alleged ball-tampering issue overshadowed a Test match between Pakistan and England, whereby Pakistan refused to take to the field for the evening session after being penalised for ball-tampering in the afternoon. The umpires awarded the game to England in accordance with the laws of cricket.
III In January 2010, England bowlers Stuart Broad and James Anderson were accused of ball tampering by rubbing the ball on the ground with their spikes in the third Test Match against South Africa.
IV Shahid Afridi, standing in as the Pakistani Captain, received a two T20 international match ban for ball-tampering in a match against Australia in January 2010. He was caught on camera biting the cricket ball in a bizarre attempt to readjust the seam of the ball.
V While fielding on during the third day of the 2nd Test, in Dubai, cameras captured footage of South Africa fielder Faf du Plessis scuffing the ball against the zip on his trousers. The on-field umpires penalized South Africa by adding 5 runs to Pakistan’s total, and changing the ball.
Although Smith confessed about the leadership group being aware of tampering, he had defended Lehmann and the coaching team and their innocence of the goings on. But video footage of Lehmann sending Peter Handscomb to hide the sandpaper used puts the integrity of Lehmann in danger too. Smith and Warner had stood down as captain and vice captain for the rest of the game. Smith has also relinquished captaincy from Rajasthan Royals. His future and the Aussie leadership group’s hang in the balance.
It is an undeniable fact that cricket has gotten more aggressive than ever before, and this competition is one of the major reasons for it being a global sport now. Cricket has traversed through its tag of “The gentleman’s game” and offers a bite that has made the game more exciting. But such instances show us how quickly things can go sour and that as fans, more than ever before, it is our duty too to know where the “line” is and make sure our sportsmen don’t cross it. As Harsha Bhogle so eloquently put it “Try your absolute best to get someone out and then shake hands after. That’s what cricket is all about”.
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