Are you really sorry, Steve Smith?
The tension can be felt in the air. The students in the hall are collectively exuding a pungent aura of dread. Time’s running out. Time is always running out.
Suddenly, the invigilator yells, “what are you doing?" while looking furiously at the boy seated at the corner of the room. “Who, me?!” he asks in response, almost as though he doesn’t know why he is being scrutinized.
“Yes, you,” retorts the teacher, before rushing towards him to check out what he was up to. As it turns out, the invigilator catches him with chits that have answers to the questions in the paper. Right then and there, he knew that this couldn’t be the job of this student alone because he was too naïve to plan out something as large as this.
The leader of the gang was then questioned. He knew that he was caught and there was no way out. “I am sorry… it will never happen again,” he pleads with the invigilator, but is he really sorry for cheating or is he sorry that he got caught?
Steve Smith feels like the weight of the world is on him. He feels like a black hole that is sucking in all the negativity from the cricket world. He takes a deep breath and opens his mouth to speak.
“I'm incredibly sorry. The leadership group knew about it, we spoke about it at lunch. The coaches weren't involved. It was purely the players. It won't happen again. I can promise you this is the first time this has happened, hopefully, we can learn something from this. I'm embarrassed, the boys in the shed are embarrassed.”
While there is no doubt that Smith is sorry, it is still not clear whether he is upset about being involved in the plan or getting caught. He declares that this was the first time they had tried something like this, but how can we be sure of it?
Maybe this was the first time that something like this had happened under the leadership of Smith. After all, it is almost impossible to hide from technology these days. But the fact that the captain of Australia would stoop so low in order to counter a dominating Proteas is disgraceful, to say the least.
There is nothing to suggest now that he wouldn’t have done the same during the Ashes had it not gone in Australia’s favour.
Perhaps the way Australia’s tour of South Africa has panned out pushed him to do something like this. The first Test was embroiled with the David Warner-Quinton de Kock incident. The second Test was marred by the Kagiso Rabada-Steve Smith incident.
And now, the ball-tampering saga has maligned the game which was supposed to be played between gentlemen.
Smith’s apology might be sincere, but after what has happened involving the Australian cricket team of late, it is difficult to defend him.
After the incident with de Kock, the Aussies came out with their chalk of morality to draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable sledging. It was particularly hilarious because it wasn’t so long ago that the Kangaroos were accused of going personal with Jonny Bairstow during the Ashes.
Meanwhile, after Rabada’s ban was lifted following the second Test, Smith came back with the line.
“I certainly think he (Rabada) bumped me a little bit harder than it actually looked on the footage,” he said following ICC’s decision to lift the band.
“The ICC have set the standard, haven’t they? There was clearly contact out in the middle.
“I certainly won’t be telling my bowlers to go out there and after you take a wicket go and get in their space. I don’t think that is on and part of the game. But the standard has been set.”
Such rich words were preached by the captain (?) of Australia. While he certainly won’t tell his bowlers to bump into a batsman after taking a wicket, he would definitely ask a player who has only participated in 8 Tests to tamper with the ball.
It might appear that the whole of the cricketing fraternity might be against Australia, but can we even blame them?
The Kangaroos are the first ones to come down wearing holy robes to preach to the people about the difference between wrong and right — or, more boldly, the difference between what the Aussies think is right and wrong.
And when they do that, they give off the impression that they are the moral police of cricket and that they have no parallels when it comes to playing the game ethically. So, when the players of a team don’t waste a single moment in criticizing the opposition for something they don’t think is right, how can we blame people when they point fingers at Australia?
The ball-tampering issue is a disgrace to the game and Australians are getting what they deserve. While some of it may be over the top — the abuses and the slander — they invited all of it by appointing themselves as the flag-bearers of cricket morals.
So now, when the preachers themselves break the very basics of the rules, the best thing to do is apologise. In the case of Smith, one can’t be sure as to whether he is really sorry for doing what he did or whether he is showing remorse for being caught.
Had the cameras failed to spot Cameron Bancroft tampering with the ball, would Smith have been sorry? Would he have regretted doing such a thing? Would he have come out in the press conference to reveal what the cameras couldn’t?
We might never get an answer to all these questions, but a student is always sorry after getting caught cheating in the exams — and never before that.