I shed crocodile tears for the young Australian captain, Steve Smith. I am also genuinely crying my eyes out for a brilliant, if quirky cricketer, the most successful contemporary Test batsman with a statistical record second only to Don Bradman. If you are interested in the actual comparative numbers, go look up Wisden on the internet. As for the baby faced Smith, he seemed such a nice chap, unlike the quintessential brash Aussie the whole cricketing world loves to hate. One, brief momentary blip of madness and a magnificent career hangs in the balance, and could be snuffed out what with rumours swirling around that Cricket Australia might be gunning for a life ban. Such a shame really, with his entire career, full of glowing prospects, right in front of him. Smith, Kohli, Root and Williamson - the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, may be reduced to the Three Musketeers!
Then there is this Cameron Bancroft chappie. Cameron who? Exactly. Now he has gained everlasting fame. Correction, notoriety. A decent opening batsman, who was tasked with finding innovative ways of ball tampering, the process involving a strip of yellow sticking plaster, soil granules and debris. All this devious effort to gain additional reverse swing for Australia’s quickies. It is now clear he was not acting on his own and this sly chicanery had the blessings of his captain and the team management. For just one moment, let us ignore the mala fide intent. Haven’t these guys heard of the battery of high tech, state of the art cameras that are constantly prying, following their every move? For God’s sake, you cannot even innocently pick your nose without it being splashed in all the newspapers, with a smart headline like, ‘Digging for gold, mate?’
Now this Bancroft character’s fledgling career may have crash landed even before it took off. As a completely irrelevant aside, the only Bancroft I had any time for was the beguiling Hollywood star Anne Bancroft, the brilliant Mrs. Robinson who seduces the callow Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate. That wonderful association with the name Bancroft is now forever marred with the culpable shenanigans of this pitiable Aussie, who has cast a permanent blight on the fair name of Bancroft. Come to think of it, the families of Smith and Bancroft will not be best pleased either. If I am any judge, the elder Aussies would probably be berating their sons and going, ‘For heaven’s sake Steve, it’s one thing to cheat. But did we not train you how not to get caught?’ And for all their troubles, the Aussies ended up losing the game by a whopping 300 odd runs.
Obviously these salutary, childhood lessons were not well learnt. At the press conference. Steve Smith looked like a bashful schoolboy, caught with his hands in the cookie jar. He has been docked some money and banned from playing the final Test against the South Africans. As has the aggressive batsman and vice-captain, David Warner, for whom most cricketing nations have little sympathy anyway, brilliant player notwithstanding.
This unfortunate incident is not the first though we can keep hoping against hope, that it will be the last. From John Lever’s Vaseline incident, Kevin Petersen’s bat size and several other affairs, and I am not even getting into all the betting imbroglios. Even Indian cricket nobility like Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid have had their names besmirched, rightly or wrongly. Harbhajan Singh was gloating at the Aussies’ plight, he having personally suffered at their hands after the Monkeygate scandal co-starring Andrew Symonds. He was particularly scathing about the discriminatory levels of punishment meted out to him compared with the apparently lighter rap on the knuckles the Australians are currently facing. Sunil Gavaskar will be shooting from the hip, all guns blazing against his favourite foes.
With the IPL just around the corner, it seems almost certain that Smith and Warner will lose their respective captaincy roles with Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad. Whether they will even play or not remains a matter for speculation. In conclusion, it can be argued that wrongdoing of this nature in what was laughably regarded a gentleman’s game (remember Douglas Jardine and Bodyline?), needs to be punished without fear or favour. An example must be set, but we have heard all this before. A sense of déjá vu prevails, and one can be forgiven a smidgen of cynicism as far as the future of world cricket is concerned.
My own guess
This too will pass. Another storm in a teacup. The World Cup beckons next year. All will be forgiven and Steve Smith and David Warner will be back, hopefully doing what they do best. Not tampering with a cricket ball with sticking plaster, but battering the ball’s shape with their bludgeoning batting. Call me a sentimental fool. I fervently wish to see Smith and Warner back, and if they are blushing with shame, that will be all right with me....