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Cricket Australia, ICC are culprits in letting the game slip away

Cricket Australia and the International Cricket Council are culprits in not halting the slide in on-field behaviour that has increasingly undermined the game’s image.

cricket Updated: Apr 01, 2018 09:22 IST
Ian Chappell
Steve Smith’s admission of ball-tampering damaged Australia’s cricket reputation and the former skipper was banned for 12 months following the offence.
Steve Smith’s admission of ball-tampering damaged Australia’s cricket reputation and the former skipper was banned for 12 months following the offence. (AP)

In some quarters there’s an outcry that the punishment meted out to Steve Smith and David Warner doesn’t fit the crime.

According to the code of conduct that would appear to be the case, with ball tampering reading like a lesser crime than some others. However, such has been the outcry against this act of cheating that Cricket Australia (CA) has done the culprits a favour.

Their appearance in Australian colours next summer would have resulted in the fans venting their anger, which wouldn’t have done their confidence or rehabilitation process much good. It also wouldn’t have done anything for CA’s image to have two of their former leaders badgered by the home crowd.

Australia’s reaction to the poor judgement of Smith, Warner and Cameron Bancroft may appear excessive but it’s fuelled by a few different factors.

Firstly, Australia’s expectations when it comes to sport, especially cricket; the public demand high standards and this has resulted in the country having an exceptional record on the sporting field.

There is also this unrealistic belief that Australian cricketers are above the under-handed tactics the public perceive some other countries stoop to in order to win. This image was shattered in Cape Town.

Then there’s the issue of the acrimonious dispute between the Australian players and CA over the most recent MoU. In many quarters, this was perceived as a group of millionaires holding out for even more money. The fact that Warner was one of the more voluble players in that dispute and is now perceived as the ring leader in the tampering incident, would have added fuel to fire.

While the players have been punished both cricket-wise and financially and coach Darren Lehmann has taken the proper course of action and stood down, it’s to be hoped they’re not the only ones who pay a hefty price.

The CA and ICC have to accept some of the blame for the fact that cricketing behaviour worldwide has plummeted to these depths. They have consistently failed to halt the slide in on-field behaviour that has increasingly undermined the game’s image.

Then, there’s the reaction of BCCI. Smith and Warner have not only relinquished their leadership roles in IPL, they’ve been banned by BCCI from the 2018 version. Whilst this is a severe hit to their bank balance, it may also be sparing them the wrath of the Indian public.

It’s also a welcome occurrence if it’s a sign that BCCI is cracking down on bad behaviour in its jurisdiction. Its governance in recent years has been less than inspiring and if the latest move represents a shift in attitude among administrators, then the Cape Town calamity won’t have been a complete black hole.

Cricket has been heading down a slippery slope for a while, to the point where the credibility of the game has been severely shaken. Strong leadership has been needed to correct this image but none has been forthcoming.

It’s the administrators who either stuff up or are slow to react and eventually the players suffer the consequences. Smith, Warner and Bancroft have suffered an immediate backlash but it will be the embarrassment that follows the stigma of cheating like an ever-present shadow that will cause lingering pain.

Let’s hope this instance of poor judgement proves to be a wake-up call for cricket overall and not just the three Australian players.

(Ian Chappell, former Australia cricket team Test captain, writes for Hindustan Times exclusively)