The ‘brain fade’ moment of Australian captain Steve Smith seems to have stretched on a little too long. Just after the #sandpaper incident at Newlands where the Australian team and their leadership group were found guilty, highly experienced director of live cricket and columnist at The Quint, Hemant Buch, tweeted, “The first rule of tampering with the ball is to do it only when you play at home and the broadcaster has your back.”
And that’s why I feel this ‘brain fade’ of the Aussie skipper has stretched a little too far. In an highly intense series, where players have fought hard both on and off the field, to end up doing something like this is simply too silly and stupid.
The way the Australian went about things on Day 3 of the Cape Town Test, the Aussie skipper and young opener Cameron Bancroft had no option but to come out and admit it. (But didn’t expect to Australia to do it so quickly)
Steve Smith called it an ‘act of desperation’ to stage a comeback in the series that was slipping out of their hands. The TV footage of the moment Bancroft was caught in the act, simply put, looks horrible. It seems even worse when a leading batsman in world cricket, who is emulated and followed by many across the world, and is the captain of his side, admits that it was a ‘ well-planned move’ by the team. It was a part of their well-thought-out 'tactic'.
So cheating was a well-thought-out plan.
Take that in.
Brain Fade 2.0
It reflects poorly on a captain and his team. Especially one that has just recently been lecturing others about the morals and ethics of the game, and has an opinion on everything.
Will anyone believe that this is the first time Aussies had done this? Perhaps it’s just the first time they were caught red-handed!
This new incident also makes it extremely tough to believe that in Bangalore when Indian Captain Virat Kohli caught Steve Smith looking up at the dressing room for help with a DRS call – which players aren't allowed to do – was an accident rather than a pattern. So, it seems the Indian team was spot-on back then when they maintained that it had been a well-planned move on the Australian team’s part to look at your coach and support staff before taking a review.
Larger Issue in Australian Cricket
This ‘act of desperation’ has once again revealed the ugly side of Australian cricket. The issue here isn’t the ball-tampering, because ball-tampering in cricket is as old as the game itself.
The implications of this one incident, though, will have widespread consequences.
There is very little sympathy for the Aussie side. Just go through the social media reaction of ex-cricketers and experts and see how hard they have come down on the Aussies. It seems like the Aussies have finally well and truly exposed themselves.
The Australian cricket team may be a winning team but now, even in their own backyard, the shine has worn off. They are a side who proudly talk about ‘mental disintegration’ (the Aussie word coined for sledging) but when someone gives it back to them, they are only too quick to read out the rules of sledging to the opponents! So basically, over the years, Aussies invented sledging, and if someone got better at it, they started calling foul.
Doesn’t it sound like street cricket, where a rich brat brings the bat, and the moment someone gets him out, he wants to take his bat and leave the game in the middle?
No wonder famous cricket writer Peter Roebuck once wrote, “Aussies won't even spare Mother Teresa if she comes on the field wearing pads.”
In this very series, Aussie coach Darren Lehmann has complained about crowd behaviour while in the past he has urged Aussie cricket supporters to target specific players to get under their skin. Stuart Broad during the 2013 Ashes was one such victim.
Why is that most of the major controversies in cricket happen during a series against Australia? There was the ‘brain fade’, ‘monkeygate’ between Andrew Symonds and Harbhajan Singh, the ‘underarm’ bowling incident against New Zealand, and now this –SandpaperGate.
This has to be the darkest moment in the history of Australian cricket. Just as bad as Greg Chappel asking his brother Trevor Chappel to bowl underarm to save six runs off the last ball against New Zealand in 1981. If Richie Benaud was alive and commenting on this match, he would have used the same words that he used to describe the ‘underarm’ moment. "Disgraceful" and "one of the worst things I have ever seen done on a cricket field."
From here on, Aussies have lost the moral high ground from which to complain about cheating, tampering, sledging, or sportsman spirit. They have poor grades in all these subjects.
It’s hard to see Smith surviving as a captain from here, but wait, the next in line is David Warner. Probably the ‘best sledger’ in world cricket right now. Sigh…