It was the day 3 of the 3rd test of a yet another beautifully set up series in Southern Africa. As expected, South Africa had made a stellar comeback by winning the second test match, after being humbled in the first at the hands of the Aussies. Proteas had gained a handy lead of 55 after the first innings. At 129/2, thanks to a set Aiden Markram things were looking up for the home team.
Moment that caught the eyes
Suddenly, Cameron Bancroft was seen to have taken out something yellowish from his right pocket and then placing it in his underpants (seriously?)
Nigel Llong and Richard Illingworth from England who were umpiring for this game, came in to chat with the great Bancroft. After the umpires’ inquiry Bancroft presented them with a soft cloth and a plastic cover (sun-glass case-ish); and these were definitely not the yellow object he was seen putting in his under pants.
By the end of the day the clips of Bancroft roughening the Kookabura with the yellow thing(Sandpaper?) were all over the Internet with #SandpaperGate now taking rounds. Andy Pycroft, the match referee for this game then registered Bancroft for ball-tampering.
The Press Conference that followed
Steven Smith and Bancroft headed the press conference which definitely had the least to do with the actual cricket but the stories of ball tampering that surrounded it.
Steven Smith accepted the allegations and informed the world about the involvement of the ‘leadership group’ of the team. When inquired about the involvement of the coaching staff in this conspiracy, Smith was seen to clearly deny the same. When asked if he’d step down as a captain, Smith replied with assurance that he still feels to be The Man to lead the crew.
For the rest of the Test match both Steven Smith and David Warner gave up their Captaincy and Vice Captaincy respectively. Tim Paine led the team for the remaining day(s).
To make matters even worse, Australia was crowned over by a mammoth and harrowing 322 runs defeat by the host team. International Cricket Council stepped in and Steven Smith was banned for 1 test match and was fined 100 percent of his match fee, while Cameron Bancroft was given 3 demerit points(demerit points combine to become suspension points, which further combine to result in serious charges such as ban for a number of matches / for a length of time) and was asked to give 75% of his match fee.
The situation turned to be so intense that even the Prime Minister of Australia had to come out and express about how hampering the incident has been to the Australian spirit.
A number of legends took the opportunity of expressing their dissent on the #SandPaperGate.
Lets try to understand the mechanics of this unfortunate incident.
What is ball tampering?
Any attempt to alter the cricket ball’s condition by unlawful means come under this term.
What are the laws with respect to altering the ball’s condition?
This has been made clear in Law 41.3 of the MCC’s Laws of Cricket. Simply, a fielder is only allowed to:
1. Polish the ball with his clothing;
2. Remove mud in umpire’s supervision, or;
3. Dry it up with a piece of cloth approved by the umpires.
To supplement it further, Clause 2.2.9 of “The International Cricket Council Code of Conduct for Players and Player Support Personnel” document prohibits the following –
(i) throwing the ball in the ground with the intention of roughening it;
(ii) applying artificial/non artificial substance with any intention but to polish it;
(iii) scratching the ball’s surface with finger or thumb nails;
(iv) interfering with the seam of the ball.
What is reverse swing and why it is effective?
Conventional swing happens due to the shininess of the ball. When the ball gets old, it is handled in a way that one side of it remains shiny, where as the other side is left to get roughen and deteriorate.
Now, the condition of the ball becomes such that the two sides of the ball separated by the grip would show different amount of resistance to the air.
The ball will swing towards the rough side. This art of bowling was developed by Sarfraz Nawaz of Pakistan in the early 1970s. It was passed onto Imran Khan by him, who later taught this skill to the duo of Waqar and Wasim.
What do players try to achieve with ball tampering?
Naturally, ball roughening is a slow process. It might take 40-45 overs before a decent distinction can be made between the two sides of the ball. Ball tampering is hence an illegal method of fastening that process.
What do I feel about this recent incident?
As a fan who has been seeing cricket for 15+ years, this might be the most shocking incident this sport has unfolded to me. A sport that should spread the feeling of brotherhood, camaraderie and love is now in a grave danger to be seen as just another money producing venture. When a valiant Aiden Markram’s gritty inning gets overshadowed by the acts of a cheat, you know it’s time to be more severe with the punishments.
I am from a generation who has seen the most talented teenage fast bowled Mohammed Amir being booked for match fixing, a promising Sreesanth self-damaging his career, Turbanator Harbhajan Singh being banned for violence.
I am also from the same crowd who remembers that over from Andrew Flintoff’s Man Of The Series campaign at the 2005 Ashes, or the Ponting Vs Ishant’s Rivalry at the Perth from the 2008’s India’s Tour of Australia. The wreckage Stuart Broad caused in the 4th Test of the 2015 Ashes with his 8 for or Sachin’s over sweeper six on Shoaib Akthar’s bouncer, which set the tone for the 2003 World Cup.
The beautiful thing about cricket is that whenever it has been quagmire-d by controversies, it has always found its way out; thanks to a few players who with their performances and attitude have always snatched cricket from the darkest nights. (Remember how Dinesh Karthik’s last ball six in the Nidahas Trophy which ended recently calmed the chaos created by Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in the previous game!!)
The recent developments
Cricket Australia has called Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft before the last match of the test series, back home. While, Tim Paine has been named as the captain for the final game to be played at the Wanderers in Jo’burg. The last game will be played from the 30th of this month. Matthew Renshaw, Glenn Maxwell and Joe Burns shall replace the 3. Cricket Australia has promised to present the sanctions on the 3 players it has called back home in the next 24 hours.
UPDATE (17:00 IST 28th March 2018) :- Steven Smith and David Warner have been banned from playing international and domestic cricket by Cricket Australia for the next 12 months. Also Steven Smith won’t be able to captain sides for a year after the completion of his ban. David Warner is banned from captaincy for his life now. They have also been prohibited by the BCCI to participate in the Indian Premier League this season.
Whereas, Cameron Bancroft would not be able to compete in any international and domestic cricket for 9 months according to the sanctions put on him by Cricket Australia. Also, he won’t be able to lead the side for the 12 months after the completion of the ban.
UPDATE (21:00 IST 28th March 2018) :- Darren Lehmann has decided that the last test match of the tour would also be the final one of his career as the head coach of the Australian Cricket team.