Was The Line Really Crossed: The Tale of the Infamous Test Series

                                                                                                  -SHUBHANKAR

Was the punishment really justified? Well, I suppose it was a bit too harsh and involving politics into it became a matter of great concern, highlighting the need for the International Cricket Council (ICC) to have a relook on the rules laid out by them. When the ICC announced the punishments to be imposed on Steve Smith and Camron Bancroft, they were only fines on the match fees of both players and a 1 match ban for Steve Smith. Well, this punishment by ICC didn’t went well with Cricket Australia and Australian public who wanted a more severe ban on the players involved in this misconduct or the prime word could be “Cheating”.

Hasn’t ball tampering been done before by players? Yes, it has been. Yes, not to the extent to which Australia went in that game against South Africa. Camron Bancroft was guilty of using a sandpaper for tampering with the ball. Before we have seen players using sugar or even their nails, but never using a sandpaper, that too with so many cameras focusing on you and with all these latest cameras and with the game evolving so much that nothing can be hided on a cricket field anymore. But the punishment I feel wasn’t justified on the 3 players. Who said that the leadership group only contained David Warner along with Steve Smith, the Captain. Weren’t the senior bowlers like Starc or Nathan Lyon involved. Don’t tell me that the ball is being tampered with or maybe the planning has been done to tamper with the ball without your main bowlers knowing anything of it. It was clearly stated by Steve Smith in his press conference that the leadership group had discussed about this at Tea time in Cape Town test. And knowing the size of the Cape Town dressing room being very small, how come when Steve Smith, David Warner and Camron Bancroft were chatting about tampering the ball, no one knew about it. These are the details which weren’t told out in public and the major players of the team were held accountable, not all those who were involved. Was Steve Smith or David Warner going to ball or even for say Camron Bancroft? No, the bowlers had to ball, so why didn’t they know of this plan. Isn’t Starc so senior a bowler to be part of the leadership group, so why wasn’t he handed over the punishment or why didn’t he come out and justified that Yes, I knew about what was going on. Even if he had told no to what the plan was and was against it, but he knew that something of that sort was about to happen. So, why didn’t he come out in open, in front of the media and let them know of what all transpired in the dressing room that day.

My only question is why was time not taken to investigate the whole matter, rather than just sacking the three from not only their positions, but from the team as well. Why was the prime minister of the country involved? Yes, I know it is a matter of pride, cricket being such a hugely popular sport in Australia, but making a decision so quickly without any investigation and on the basis of political pressure, that’s cruel in my opinion. Why I say cruel is aftermath of the sandpaper gate, what the whole controversy was popularly known as. Before the 4th test match started, Darren Lehman, the then coach of the Australian team called a press conference stating that he will coach the Australian team for the one last time, that being the 4th test. The decision was taken because his family were receiving threats after the 3rd test, and he choose his family first and resigned from the coaching position. But who the hell gave permission to threaten someone’s family. Mistakes do happen, we all are humans, but to go to that extent isn’t fair at all.

Well, giving the backdrop of what happened before the whole sandpaper gate controversy, you would get a sense that this was coming. So, this was another highly anticipated test series between Australia and South Africa. Australian team had dominated the South African’s in their own backyard for quite a while now. But this series was going to be another thriller between these top two teams with brilliant or should I say one of the best pace attacks in world cricket at that moment. Australia came to South Africa on the back of the Ashes series win, with full confidence. South Africa had also beaten the world number one test team at that moment in South Africa itself, the Indian cricket team. So, South Africa were also full of confidence going into the series against Australia. The 1st test between the two sides saw an ugly banter emerge between the Australian’s and the young South African batsman Aiden Markram. The young batsman was targeted and was bantered all over by the Aussies, to the extent that few of the commentators had to switch of their stump mics because it was so ugly a banter. But the things didn’t stop here, it was just the start or we could say just the spark before the actual fire started. The 1st test saw Nathan Lyon, the Australian offie, after running out AB Devilliers throwing the ball upon the batsman, with ICC getting involved and punishing Lyon with a certain amount of match fee deduction terming the action by Nathan Lyon out of the spirit of the game. The banter had gone too far that test match, but it wasn’t over yet. An off field incident between Australian Vice captain David Warner and South African wicketkeeper Quinton De Kock had taken the limelight away from the test match which was still going on. At tea time, de Kock and Warner were indulged in a war of words when players were going back into the dressing room, with the Australian Vice Captain being taken away by his teammates before the things heated up. The 2nd test saw South African pace bowler Kagiso Rabada being banned for the next two tests of the series for having a contact with the Australian captain after taking his wicket and in celebrating the wicket touched the Australian captain. However, Cricket South Africa fought the case, hence over turning the ban on Rabada. So, this was the whole situation before the 3rd and the most infamous test match in Australian cricketing history.

Well, I feel the line was crossed but not to an extent to ban the three cricketers for almost a year. And why only these players, why not the others who I feel according to the circumstantial evidence were definitely involved. However, the bans are over and now all the three are back playing and representing the Australians once again, with all three performing really well. Hope this situation never happens again.   

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