IPL 2018: Why Smith must not be treated as criminal over ball tampering row

Australian cricket captain Steve Smith, left, arrives with teammates, at the Cape Town International airport to depart to Johannesburg for the final five day cricket test match, in Cape Town, South Africa, Tuesday. Photo: AP | PTI
The ball tampering scandal involving Australian cricket team captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and opening batsman Cameron Bancroft has seen some serious action being taken by Cricket Australia, as well as Indian Premier League (IPL) governing council.

Four days after the scandal came to light, Cricket Australia swung into action on Wednesday and suspended all three. While Smith and Warner were handed a 12-month suspension from the national side, Bancroft got a 9-month suspension.

Meanwhile, the IPL governing council in New Delhi also decided to bar Smith and Warner from VIvo IPL 2018. Both had earlier stepped down from the captaincy of their respective IPL 2018 franchises – Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad – after the duo had earlier been retained by the franchises for a whopping Rs 125 million each.

Earlier, Australian cricket team captain Steve Smith had admitted to his side’s deliberate and pre-planned act of ball tampering on field on the third day of their third test match against South Africa in Cape Town. After opening batsman Cameron Bancroft was caught on camera while scratching the ball, Smith had said that it was his team’s pre-meditated strategy, hatched during the lunch break, with the team leadership also involved.

According to a CA statement, Smith and Bancroft were also banned from leadership positions for 12 months after completing their one-year ban from international and domestic cricket. Warner was banned from all leadership positions in Australian cricket for life.

The players were found to have breached article 2.3.5 of the CA Code of Conduct, which relates to conduct at any time that is contrary to the spirit of the game, unbecoming of a representative, harmful to the interests of the game or bringing the game into disrepute.

The three will be allowed to play club cricket and were encouraged by the CA to do so "to maintain links with the cricket community".

However, there also are views that the punishments handed to the three cricketers might be too harsh, given the nature of their offence. Should they have been banned by the IPL governing council from participating in IPL 2018, and by CA from playing for the country or taking leadership positions in the team for a year or more?

Let’s take a look at the whole story in detail and earlier such instances to gauge if the punishments in the extant case are suitable:

The present ball-tampering scandal:

Smith allowed a junior-rank player to tamper with the cricket ball -- an act that has been carried out on a sly by some illustrious names during earlier times but a risky proposition with over 100 cameras capturing every angle.

He then admitted to having 'Brain Fade 2.0' and all hell broke loose as if the most ghastly act had been carried out by a hard-core criminal.

Shamed by the country's cricket establishment, vilified by the media and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a cricket enthusiast, joining the chorus – life would never be the same for the 28-year-old (now former) Australian captain.

Unjust vilification?

People have come back from harsher punishment and graver acts of transgression but very few times have one seen such public outrage at something that everyone knew was happening but no one spoke decisively as there wasn't any proof.

Smith admitted to his guilt but the manner in which Cricket Australia's elaborate release on the charges levelled against him tried to portray him as the first among the equals of rare breed of criminals.

Look who is talking

The BCCI, not the cleanest of organisations, put itself on a pulpit and banned Smith, Warner and Bancroft from IPL 2018, after backlash from sections of media.

Strangely the same BCCI, then and now, hardly cared about the public perceptions when it came to the conduct of their office-bearers.

Greats of the past no better

For Cricket Australia, Shane Warne and Mark Waugh, who had passed on information to the bookies way back in 1994, are still legends (every right to be with their on-field achievements) and their "error in judgement" confined only to google search.

If acts of ball tampering are being equated with criminality, then Pakistan could have never fielded a proper team through the '80s and '90s.

Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and before them -- the 'father of reverse swing bowlers' Sarfaraz Nawaz wouldn't have had their statistical profiles on Cricinfo.

Wrong comparisons

Smith knew there was no escape and he admitted to have been a party to the decision. He could have let the youngster hang dry and pleaded not guilty which he didn't.

Yet, his case is being compared to Mohammed Aamir, who took money to lose a game.

Smith wanted to win at all costs, if not caught he would have been considered the tough cookie that the Australians so like.

There is massive public outrage in Australia as their sportspersons have been role models – especially the Australian captains. But what is desperately needed is some perspective.

“I do feel for Steve Smith. 100 per cent he has made a major mistake and he and a lot of other people I think are going to have to suffer the consequences. That's fair enough. But I think it's important that we do over time forgive as well," former captain Michael Clarke stated.

'Image is Everything' as Andre Agassi wrote in his much-revered autobiography 'Open'. And admission of guilt is end of the road.

World too harsh on a master batsman?

They want Smith to do 100 hours of community service for his transgression and at least play club cricket to remain in touch.

But what about that batsman who, despite uncouth technique, had surreal confidence to take on the best bowlers in the business.

A Mark Waugh's on drive is remembered with fondness, a Ricky Ponting's pull-shot is one for the retro CD and possibly it is difficult to remember many of Smith's shots.

But how many players outside the Indian sub-continent has played spin bowling better than Smith? The 109 in Pune on a batsman's graveyard will always be remembered, more for his temperament.

It is expected that Smith will appeal against the ban and whatever the outcome, he will be back on the cricket field.

With agency inputs

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