Steve Smith is not a criminal and shouldn't be treated like one
"I don't blame anyone... I am the captain of the Australian team, it's on my watch..and I take the responsibility for what happened". This is the statement that a visibly devastated Steven Smith made in Sydney.
And it demands respect.
He made a mistake, he confessed and he apologized. How many of us as individuals can claim to have had done the same after having gone the wrong path.
Steve Smith is not a criminal, he is just a 28-year-old man who made a grave mistake.
A mistake that has not been made for the first time in International cricket. However, it is the first time the culprit has shown the audacity to blatantly confess to it.
All through the 90s, the cricket ball swung suspiciously. There were allegations, hush locker room talks but no one ever came out in the open.
The sultan of swing swung it. His bowling counterparts swung it. Bowlers around the world swung it. The ball kept reversing, the stumps kept cartwheeling and quite a few of those swing bowlers turned into legends.
But, was everything really happening in the spirit of the game all through? Questions have been raised, doubts emerged, but no real answers.
Ball tampering has always been perceived as a grey area in the game.
Shahid Afraid was caught on live cameras chewing onto a cricket ball at WACA. He was banned for two T20 International matches. Mike Atherton was fined less than 4000$ in 2004 but escaped any ban after he was spotted using dirt from the pitch to work on the ball. Current South African skipper Faf du Plessis was fined his complete match fee for using mint on the ball in 2016 but again there was no ban.
Then why has this particular instance suddenly created such a furore, attracting as much rage from all quarters?
Perhaps, the gravity of this whole Sandpaper Gate does not lie in the issue of ball tampering alone but the conspiracy and plotting done beforehand to cheat. This is what makes it miserable.
But, when some past cricketers sitting in the studios are crucifying Steven Smith for what he did, there is an urgent need for them to self-reflect and revisit the times when they themselves or their teammates were guilty of it but no one batted an eyelid then.
I agree, what Smith did is a huge letdown and disgrace to his nation, the cricketing world, and the game itself. But please do not make him a scapegoat.
One might believe this entire scenario is apparently a huge opportunity for everyone to get back at the Australians, who over the years have been perceived as being notorious and bullish in the way they play the sport.
Australian cricket has been engulfed by a culture that demands victory at all costs. Thus, they have gone on to ruffle a few feathers and upset a number of their opponents along the way. There has been a ubiquitous dislike towards this very Australian cricketing culture in recent times.
As a leader, Smith's approval and go ahead with the planned cheating is sickening. It validates the point that it was not just a moment of 'brain fade' but a rationally thought-after attempt to ditch and lie. It might resonate with a man of an insipid and meek character.
But how many people are ready to face the storm straightaway and take all the blame on themselves. Steve Smith was not the primary conspirer but he never blamed anyone else other than himself.
He might have failed as a leader on the field but fulfilled his role well off the field.
This in no way means he shouldn't be paying for what he did. Yes, he deserved to be punished and be set an example of. But, when the prime minister of a country gets involved and a huge number or reputations are at stake, the verdict passed might have been more as a result of a media trial than rationality.
Smith knew the consequences of a confession. He still did it. The initiative needs to be appreciated if not laureled. Yes, you did wrong Steve and you deserve to face the consequences. There is no individual bigger than the game.
However, the manner in which you stood back up and accepted your mistakes is what you are really made of. You can be proud of that.
Hope to see you back on the crease flicking away those kookaburras to the mid wicket fence with utmost ease again...hopefully soon enough.
Let's refrain from labelling the man a 'Cheat'. We are humans. It happens...