Opinionista Peter Flack 26 March 2018

On dishonest and dishonourable cricket cheats

It is time to introduce no-nonsense disciplinary measures for badly behaved cricketers, or we will watch the game suffer more than it already has.

Allow me to start with the conclusion.

First: The Australian cricket team’s “Leadership Group” that planned and executed the plot to tamper with the cricket ball at Newlands on Day Three of the Test match against South Africa should be named, shamed, obliged to each give an unequivocal, public apology, fined their entire match fee and sent home.

None of this bullshit of I was in the wrong place at the wrong time or I’m embarrassed that I was caught but should remain the captain of this morally bankrupt team.

Second: The wickets of those taken with the tampered ball should be set aside and they should be allowed to resume their innings, much as would have been the case if the bowler had bowled a no-ball as, in both cases, the bowler breached the rules of the game and, in the second case, knowingly and intentionally.

Third: Alternatively, the Australians should be obliged to forfeit the game. This was a deliberate, premeditated, conscious attempt by them to win the game by foul means, not a minor transgression like an inadvertent, unconscious no-ball.

Fourth: The pusillanimous umpires who allowed the game to continue without even changing the ball, after seeing the incontrovertible TV evidence, should be replaced and not allowed to umpire test cricket again. What additional evidence did they require? To the extent they have backbones, they must be made of boiled spaghetti.

Draconian? Maybe. But unless a line is drawn under this kind of illegal, dishonest, immoral and dishonourable conduct, the practice will continue and become worse, as players from around the world will see this very public case as a precedent that they can get away with this kind of conduct with relative impunity.

There is already the case of Pakistan appointing, as their cricket captain, a man seen on TV biting the cricket ball as if it were an apple and, in a separate incident, pirouetting with his studs on the cricket pitch in the exact spot where the ball was destined to pitch. I mean, what does this tell you about Pakistan, its cricket administrators and their players? Given this and the other scandals that have beset their players over the years, is it ever possible to know when this cricket team is playing to win or cash in on bookmakers’ odds? Personally, I no longer watch them play. I enjoy watching sport, but not this hybrid form of roulette on a field.

Is this now going to be the future modus operandi of the Australian cricket team? They have been controversial for many years for their on-field bully-boy behaviour, where they have been allowed to define what is acceptable or not with their verbal insults, verbal personal attacks and threats, and only raise the issue when they come off worse, which, to be honest, is not often.

And I do not believe this ball tampering incident is an isolated one. In the previous test when David Warner was given the job of “shining” the ball and allowed the bowlers to produce effective amounts of dangerous reverse swing as a result, had his fingers covered in abrasive bandages to the extent that it looked as if he had broken a number of them. I am reliably informed that AB de Villiers queried all these bandages and, surprise, surprise, in the next Test, only a few days later, the ball “shining” job was given to the ferret-faced Bancroft, and Warner’s bandages had disappeared. You can draw your own conclusions.

This latest incident brings the game into disrepute and casts a long, dark shadow over the behaviour, morals and tactics of Australian cricket. It is a terrible example for youngsters playing, or thinking of playing, the game. Unless this kind of thing is stopped, it will only get worse, and cricket as a whole will suffer. It is time to make an example of the people involved that will serve as a warning that this kind of behaviour will no longer be tolerated.

Last, I support Michael Holding’s view that thought should be given to introducing on a trial basis the yellow and red carding of players during the game itself for foul play, just as is the case for rugby, i.e. the immediate removal of the player from the field of play – no substitutes allowed – for a period of time in the case of a yellow and for the rest of the game in the case of a double yellow or red.

What with the TV replays available and the current presence of an off-field third umpire, there is no reason why this cannot be effectively implemented, certainly at an international level. DM

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