Ball Tampering at Newlands-Has CA been harsh on its players?
An opinion on the the extent of steps taken by Cricket Australia in the ball tampering saga.
Down in the dumps: Steve Smith and David Warner
The events that played out in Cape Town, thanks to an alert camera crew, have led to the suspension of two of Australia's best batsmen with about 15,000 runs between them, and two of their prime leaders. For all that Steve Smith, David Warner, and Cameron Bancroft may have thought prior to doing what they did at Newlands, the backlash that they are now facing would not have been high on the list of possibilities. However, they have been handed lengthy bans, and the fracas that has since developed has given the cricket-loving world an insight into the Australian psyche.
Now that the 'sentencing' has been done by the authorities, there are some murmurs that the punishment does not fit the crime, but since the guilty party happens to be Australians, the rest of the cricketing world has taken them to the cleaners. However, now may be the time to keep those feelings of ill-will aside and think from the head. The ICC did what it should have and handed out one Test bans to the three players, but what Cricket Australia has done by banning the trio from all domestic and international competition for such a long period is harsh.
While the leadership clause of the punishment may make sense, the complete prohibition from playing cricket does not. Granted, Australia has a proud sporting culture. So do a lot of other countries, especially at sports they are good at. So, this entire premise of the people being angered is a little shaky in my opinion. A taste of sponsor pressure comes to the mouth, especially with Magellan pulling out from its deal with CA. Combining this with the time period for which the players have been banned, you tend to feel for the players.
In cricketing terms, the Australian cricket team now has to find a brand-new opening pair and a stable number four. Bringing Glenn Maxwell in makes sense considering his recent domestic form, but to bring him in place of a former captain and the world's best test batsman is very iffy. Peter Handscomb may also be a choice in the XI at no. four, but the role he will be expected to play is daunting, considering the questions that have been raised about his technique.
Joe Burns has been given another chance, while Matt Renshaw should ideally have been seen as David Warner's long-term opening partner. Tim Paine has been appointed as Australia's 46th Test captain, a decision which seems to be partly because there wasn't anybody else to fill the role, which makes this ban seems harsher considering that CA is willing to completely alter the dynamic of an Australian team which had just trounced England 4-0 in the Ashes.
As a cricket lover, seeing Steve Smith being booed and jeered at as he makes his way out of South Africa is sad. There isn't any other word for it. It is sad seeing a cricketer of his ability having to be shielded from the crowd the way he was by security personnel, almost akin to being accused of match-fixing or something even more serious. However, there is no doubt that this is an important moment in Australian cricket history. The misdemeanour is a serious one, but the heart of the matter is not that three players tried to alter the condition of the ball. That has been dealt with by the ICC.
It is that an ego has been hurt, and a pedestal on which Australian cricket, and to an extent, a pedestal on which Australian sport placed itself on has been destroyed.
But amidst all the noise, cricket fans from various countries must ask themselves some questions. What if it was their captain and vice-captain who had been found guilty of this misdemeanour? And what if the opposition happened to be Australia?
As an Indian cricket fan, these are rather tough questions to answer, considering that the captain happens to be the best limited-overs batsman in the world, and the vice-captain happens to be their best performer in overseas conditions. There seems to be a sizeable amount of knee-jerk reactions as this saga plays out.