Grime and punishment: Former players question slap on the wrist for Steve Smith, Cameron Bancroft in ball tampering controversy

ICC's decision to ban Steve Smith for a Test hasn't quite gone down well with several former players and commentators. Here's a lowdown and reactions.

By: Express News Service | Updated: March 26, 2018 9:59:19 am
Australia are playing the third Test against South Africa. Cameron Bancroft has been charged of ball-tampering. (Source: AP)

The ICC’s decision to ban Steve Smith for a Test hasn’t quite gone down well with several former players and commentators. Here’s a lowdown and reactions.

Breach
ICC chief executive David Richardson laid the charge against Smith under Article 2.2.1 of the ICC Code of Conduct for Players and Player Support Personnel, which prohibits ‘all types of conduct of a serious nature that is contrary to the spirit of the game’. Additionally, Australia opener Cameron Bancroft breached Level 2 of the ICC Code of Conduct, a violation of clause 41.3, related to changing the condition of the ball. The offence is considered light, two levels below the most serious offence.

Punishment
For Smith, the sanction of two suspension points equates to a ban for the next Test and will see four demerit points added to his record. Bancroft has been fined 75 per cent of match fee and handed three demerit points. One more demerit point till October and he will have to sit out of one Test.

Getting away lightly?
The first instance brought to the ICC’s notice went unpunished — England bowler John Lever was accused of applying Vaseline on one side of the ball to make it swing better during the third Test against India in Chennai in 1977. But progressively, the ICC has been stricter in their punishment. The first to be penalised was England skipper Michael Atherton, in 1994, who was fined £2000 for applying dirt to the ball. Waqar Younis, too, got away with a fine before Sachin Tendulkar was docked 75 per cent of match fee and suspended for one Test for “trying to remove dirt off the seam” in South Africa. However, the BCCI boycotted the next match and it was played as an unofficial Test. The ban too was overturned.

In 2006, though, Inzamam-ul-Haq was banned for four matches when his team was found tampering with the ball during the Oval Test. It ended up as the first forfeited Test match in cricket history. In 2010, his successor Shahid Afridi was banned for two ODIs after cameras caught him chewing one side of the ball. A recent incident featured, ironically, South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis, who was fined 100 per cent of match fee and given three penalty points in 2016.

But the debatable point in the latest case is that it was a concerted and predetermined plan to tamper with the ball. Hence, many reckon it was the perfect time to set a predecent. Michael Holding, on air, put it perfectly: “There is a difference between planned crime and crime of passion. The Smith incident was clearly a case of the former.”

Outrage
Harbhajan Singh, with a history against Australia , didn’t hold back his punches.

Sympathy for Bancroft

There, though, was sympathy overflowing for Cameron Bancroft, who has just played eight Tests in his young career. “I can’t believe the leadership group have got a young kid playing in his eighth Test match to do this,” felt former Australia skipper Michael Clarke.

So did his former teammate Brad Hogg, “Team mate of mine, known him since he was 13. Disappointing. Out of character. Eagerly awaiting the fallout from this.”

Even match referee Andy Pycroft of Zimabwe took a lenient view of Bancroft’s offence, hinting at the reason why Bancroft did not receive a harsher punishment.“I acknowledge Cameron has accepted responsibility for his actions by pleading guilty to the charge and apologising publicly. As a young player starting out in international cricket, I hope the lessons learned from this episode will strongly influence the way he plays the game during the rest of his career,” he said during the ruling.

Twitterati

@harbhajan_singh
wow @ICC wow. Great treatment nd FairPlay. No ban for Cameron Bancroft with all the evidences whereas 6 of us were banned for excessive appealing in South Africa 2001 without any evidence and Remember Sydney 2008? Not found guilty and banned for three matches.different people different rules, i think.

@michaelVaughan
“1 Match Ban & 100 % March fee Fine for Smith #ffs … 75% match fee fine for Bancroft and some bloody De merit points for Bancroft … Pathetic penalties for CHEATING … Surely this moment was the time to set a precedent … !!?? All the team should be penalised.”

@KP24
A little birdie tells me that the weak ICC punishment isn’t anywhere near what Cricket Australia is thinking.

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