Home » Columns »  Sandpapering Over The Cracks

Sandpapering Over The Cracks

Publishing Date : 04 April, 2018

Stuart White
The World in Black-N-White

Though it’s a sport still in its infancy in Botswana, the noble game of cricket goes back for centuries.  It is thought the name derived from the Old English cryce, meaning  “stick,” and, in its crude form, resembled a 13th century game known as club-ball , though it was until the 18th century when it developed its present form, played by the gentry and great landowners who tested their skills against their tenants and the local peasantry.

The sport was exported to many former British colonies – primarily India, which was of course split into Indian and Pakistan post World War II and the West Indies and in all of these nations the game is less a sport and more of a religion.  The late, great Reggae legend Bob Marley even wrote a song summing up his countrymen and women’s passion for it with a chorus that goes:

‘We don’t like cricket....…We love it!’…And of course the game also spawned the phrase ‘just not cricket’, it having begun life as a gentleman’s game in which honour and fair play was everything, and so it remained for centuries but alas, cracks have appeared in recent years.  There have been match-fixing scandals involving players from South Africa, Pakistan and the Windies with illicit betting rings run in India.  Once exposed, these have been swiftly and emphatically dealt with by the ICC (International Cricket committee), not least the lifetime ban imposed on former South African captain Hanse Kronje in the early noughties.

That said, the original spirit largely remains; the umpires rule the field and their authority is absolute and whilst a certain amount of ‘sledging’ or verbal teasing, between players on opposing sides is tolerated – they are after all, grown men, the on-field umpires are quick to step in if it goes over the top or if there is the slightest sign of even minor physical contact.

Given all of this it is hard to over-estimate the magnitude of the ball-tampering scandal that has come to light, following an incident caught on camera during a test match between Australia and South Africa last weekend in Cape Town when Aussie bowler Cameron Bancroft was seen to have been using an unidentified object to scuff up the ball in order to affect the way it played. 

The footage was brought to the attention of the umpires who questioned Bancroft, then allowed the game to continue but as soon as the match ended, a press conference was convened and Bancroft, along with Australian Captain Steve Smith, admitted they had used  what they described as sticky tape covered with grit from the pitch to rough up the ball surface. It later transpired that the sticky tape story was just that – a tall tale – and that what had been used on the ball was sandpaper.  

The cricketing community was in shock and the press and social media went into overdrive.  Smith insisted he was still fit to captain the squad , whilst the incident was even adversely commented on by the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull who personally contacted the Chairman of the Australian Cricket board, David Peever, to express his ‘shock and disappointment’.  

A day later the ICC issued its edict – Smith was fined all of his match fee, Bancroft only 75% in view of the fact that he was youth and the fact that he was acting under the skipper’s instructions and Smith and his Vice Captain, David Warner, also found to be involved, were removed from their positions on a temporary basis.  Many people thought the pair had been let off lightly, especially their fans back home who felt embarrassed and let down by their players’ bad behaviour.

Today, however, those people might feel appeased.  The Australian Cricket Boards has now announced its own disciplinary action and it is very severe indeed.   Smith and Warner have both been banned from playing for their country for a period of 1 year and Warner has been told he will never captain or vice-captain the squad again.  On top of that both men have been stripped of their places in the very lucrative Indian Premier League which will cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Bancroft fared better, only receiving a 9-month ban, Warner and Smiths’ reputations are now in tatters.  They  may possibly play for Australia again but they will never shake off the ‘cheat’ labels  which will follow them forever.  And if you are not a cricket afficionado, these are 2 of the world’s top batsmen with impressive batting stats in all formats of the game.  As for bowler, Bancroft, he is young enough to bounce back and he may have been unduly pressured by his world-famous captain and vice-captain but it’s still a stain on his record.

So Australia has lost the services of its 2  top batsmen, the team is in disarray and seriously depleted in its talent tally, and all for the sake of being caught cheating when sheer skill and fair play so often wins the day for Australia – they just didn’t need to do it.
It’s a cliché, I know, but seriously, it’s just not cricket. 



Do you think the courts will help put the UDC, BMD impasse within reasonable time ahead of the 2019 General Election?