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A ball-tampering row consumes Australia

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Global Indian87

I disagree with the writer that the punishment was "conveniently" handed down as there isn't much Cricket for Australia this year. They host India and Sri Lanka in Tests. Schedule notwithstanding, CA should be appreciated for the bold move. They have set a precedent for Cricketing nations around the world. They have shown that winning matters more, only when played in the spirit of the game. Finally, I second that Rahul Dravid be made the coach to cleanse the cricketing culture of Aussies, as recommended by Tunku Varadarajan. While that move will certainly help their Cricket, more importantly, it will make the Aussies follow the spirit of the game as also make them more popular among fans across the world.


"The laws of cricket prevent players from deliberately changing the condition of the ball. In practice, this happens all the time. Players polish the shiny side on their trousers assiduously, for example."
"Umpires and fans generally turn a blind eye to all of this."

Polishing the ball is legal. In any case, umpires check the ball after every over.

From the "Laws of Cricket":

A fielder may, however polish the ball on his/her clothing provided that no artificial substance is used and that such polishing wastes no time. remove mud from the ball under the supervision of an umpire. dry a wet ball on a piece of cloth that has been approved by the umpires.


I can't help feeling that the slightly hysterical breast-beating in parts Australian over this affair is actually a cover for a damage limitation exercise. For one thing, I simply don't believe that something like this was cooked up on the fly during the lunch interval. At the very least I suspect that it was an established tactical option to be implemented in certain circumstances- and that the whole team (particularly the bowlers) knew it. Secondly, I don't buy the notion that Lehmann, the Aussie coach, was unaware of what was going on- if he was that badly out of touch with his dressing room then one has to wonder about his role in the side.

It looks to me as if the narrative that's being spun will load all the blame on to Warner, a man with a long record of boorish and unpleasant behaviour whom I suspect few in world cricket would be sorry to see shut out of the international game. He's also on the far side of thirty, nearer the end of his career than the beginning. Steve Smith is simply too central to the current Australian side to be excluded for a day longer than he has to be (and until this point he was popular with the Aussie public in the way his predecessor Michael Clarke wasn't). Bancroft is a promising ingenue whose services can be dispensed with for a few months. In other words, my suspicion is that Warner will be thrown off the sledge to close debate down.

What the longer term consequences within cricket will be is anybody's guess. I suspect they will be limited. I doubt if there's much appetite for a genuine root-and-branch review of cheating in the game, any more than there was over the South African match fixing and Pakistani illegal betting scandals of the past- just punish the most visible culprits and move on. Once the schadenfreude about Australia getting caught out wears off (and I think a lot of cricket fans worldwide find the absurd quasi-religious language spun around "the baggy green cap"- and not just by Australians- a bit nause-making) there will probably be an uncomfortable sense that there but for the grace of God might have gone any one of the Test sides. I imagine one result is likely to be that future ball tampering ploys will have to be conducted in ways which won't be picked up on camera- especially if you're the away side (it looks as if the South African telly crews had had their card marked to look out for Australian sharp practice by a former SA quick bowler working for the local media- I doubt if that would have happened had the series been played in Australia). And Australia, like England and India, are simply too central to the economics of the world game to be inconvenienced for long. I suppose it's possible that this will give an additional fillip to white ball formats where there's rather less advantage to be gained by ball tampering, but that would be at most marginal. In other words, I suspect this will be a nine days wonder.

One wonders whether it will have any impact on the almost sacral role invested in the Australian cricket team as bearer of national identity and external soul of the nation. I suspect not in the long term. Cricket is the one truly national team sport in Australia (the two codes of rugby are mostly confined to Queensland and New South Wales, Australian Rules Football to Victoria and South Australia while soccer has never quite shaken its reputation as a bit "unAustralian", played mostly by people with Slavic or Italian-sounding names) and the Australian cricket team predates the creation of the modern federal state by a quarter of a century or so. There are no doubt going to be some very public and faintly embarrassing public acts of contrition (think Henry II being flogged at the shrine of Thomas Becket in Canterbury.....) but I suspect it will be many a long year before cricket is "just a game" Down Under!


The issues are deeper than this. Australia has led the way in the transition from sledging being a delightfully humorous, cricket-field version of comic relief on the acting stage, to being a fully institutionalized tool of offense in seeking "the psychological disintegration" of the opposition. They have become the trash-talkers of modern cricket, and sledging comes comfortably to them, as a form of cultural expression. For others it is a burden they pick up, but wish they did not really have too. Generalization here with some odd individuals here and there in some nations confounding the pattern, but reasonable generalization. That is why so many members of other national teams are almost enjoying watching the downfall (witness the tweets being reported from former big players in the mainstream media) -- much more so than they would have for any other team.