The scandal with the ball tampering by the Australian Cricket team, that has grown in volume overnight, has highlighted the surprising gap between expected values in sport and the reality. The Australian Captain’s deliberate plan, lies and subsequent refusal to stand down marks him as a man not fit to lead a national team in Australia.
This would not have been revealed to an admiring fan base were it not for some ineptitude and some skill. Ineptitude on the part of Cameron Bancroft in trying to be a magician in concealment on a world stage. Skill from the media in South Africa. South Africa’s superior sports camera work has uncovered the finer details of the game of cricket. It was the live-feed from cameras that opportunistically followed the path of a yellow piece of paper as it was removed and replaced into the trouser pocket of an international cricket player. I believe that only the optimism of arrogant players could misapprehend the difficulty of concealing these activities in the context of such a high level of surveillance.
The potential infringement came to the attention of the umpires during the game. The Australian Captain was there when Bancroft was asked about it. For me, however, it’s what Steve Smith did not say to the umpires, when questioned about his deliberate plan, that speaks volumes for his lack of suitability for the role of Australian cricket Captain. The Australians had their opportunity to be truthful on the field. The plan they hatched at lunchtime was carried through into deceptive behaviour on the field. It was none other than the Australian Captain Steve Smith that stood silently by, within a metre or so, whilst Cameron Bancroft produced the black material intended to mask his offence of ball tampering. This was his first opportunity for admitting what was done, but he was prepared to go through with the plan. And so we learn the true character of Steve Smith: a character willing to stay silent whilst his team-mate lies for him and the team in front of international umpires.
If it weren’t for South African cameramen being so alive to the true situation, it would have been treated as just another day on the field. Steve Smith would have brushed it off. We should be very slow to accept Smith’s statement that this is the first and last incident of its kind, or an ‘isolated incident’. It is the kind of excuse that is used too readily in recent times. The infrequency of the misdemeanour does not change the quality of the men who agreed to it.
Unfortunately, some of those within the Cricket fraternity, including those who have leadership positions in Western Australia, having heard Smith’s statement at the post-match press conference, agreed with Smith’s defiant attitude to stand in his position. This, unfortunately, included Adam Voges (recently retired). Voges’ reasons (see video 1:30 to 2 minutes) included his view that there was a lot of ‘upside’ to Smith remaining as Captain. That decision shouldn’t be left to Smith or Voges, but such a conclusion gives insufficient attention to the lack of judgment and the choices that Smith and other players have made: choices that shouldn’t be made in any match, at any level in the game. Cricket is a game of values, its senior players being role models for millions of Australians, whether you like it or not. Even if no other action is taken, there should be serious implications for the tenure of cricket leaders. A “win at all costs” attitude, including breaking the rules, needs to be stamped out immediately.
Thankfully, Adam Gilchrist and Simon Katich have much clearer view of the inappropriateness of the admitted behaviour, at this early stage, and doubt whether Steve Smith can, or should, remain as Captain.