Coach Quits After Sanctions Imposed On Three Australian Players

 In a new low that has tormented the gentleman game of cricket in Australia, distraught former Australia cricket captain Steve Smith was in tears as he accepted full responsibility for a ball-tampering scandal that has shaken the sport. Australia has always dominated the game of cricket and remains in news for winning matches against one team or the other. But this time it was in news for entirely different reasons.
                                      In an unprecedented development, Steve Smith and David Warner were stripped from their roles as Captain and Vice-Captain and banned from all international and domestic cricket for a year over their behaviour during the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town. Even opening batsman Cameron Bancroft was suspended for nine months. David Warner was charged by Cricket Australia with developing the plan to use sandpaper to alter the ball to their bowlers advantage and instructing Bancroft to carry it out. Cameron Bancroft was caught tampering with the ball.
                                              In a statement, Cricket Australia announced the sanctions imposed on the three players, who were ordered to leave for home on March 27 midway through the ongoing Test series against South Africa. Following Smith’s and Bancroft’s admission to ball tampering in the third Test, the ICC banned the Australian captain for one Test while the latter was fined 75 percent of his match fee. But a huge public outcry in Australia compelled Cricket Australia to hand a much harsher punishment. The Cricket Australia statement read as follows: “Steve Smith: suspension of 12 months from all international and domestic cricket. David Warner: suspension of 12 months from all international and domestic cricket. Cameron Bancroft: suspension of 9 months from all international and domestic cricket. All three players will, however, be permitted to play club cricket to maintain links with the cricket community.”
                                            Going forward, Cricket Australia while cracking the whip said that Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft will not be considered for team leadership positions until one year after the end of their ban, while David Warner will never be an option for captaincy role.” It also said that, “Any consideration of future leadership would be conditional on acceptance by fans and the public, form and authority among the playing group. David Warner will not be considered for team leadership positions in the future.” In other words, the chances of David Warner becoming the captain of some future cricket team has been permanently sealed!
                                      Truly speaking, Cricket Australia Chairman David Peever said the rather stringent penalties are a reflection of Australia’s current outrage at the action of the players. Peever while explaining the gravity of the situation said that, “These are significant penalties for professional players and the Board does not impose them lightly.” In the same vein, Peever also expressed optimism saying that, “It is hoped that following a period of suspension, the players will be able to return to playing the game they love and eventually rebuild their careers.”
                                      It must be brought out here that the CEO of Cricket Australia James Sutherland too echoed the sentiment of Peever. He said that, “I am satisfied that the sanctions properly reflect a balance between the need to protect the integrity and reputation of the game and the need to maintain the possibility of redemption for the individuals involved, all of whom have learned difficult lessons through these events.”
                                          In a major turn of events, the Australian cricket team lost a major sponsor and a host of large companies tore up branding deals with individual players as the fallout of a ball-tampering scandal tore into the financial core of the country’s favourite pastime. Fund manager Magellan Financial Group Ltd binned a three-year team naming rights deal which was only seven months old while sports apparel giant ASICS Corp and Commonwealth Bank of Australia joined other firms in dropping players caught in the scandal which has shaken cricket. All this will certainly adversely affect Australian cricket to some extent and it will take quite some time for Australia to come out of it!
                                      Back home, the Committee of Administrators (CoA) on March 28, 2018 banned Steve Smith and David Warner from participating in the 2018 Indian Premier League (IPL). The BCCI, in a press release, said that, “The CoA took cognizance of the developments in the ball tampering incident involving Cricket Australia contracted cricketers – Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft. The CoA, in consultation with IPL Chairman Rajeev Shukla, acting President CK Khanna and acting Secretary Amitabh Choudhary, has decided to ban Smith and Warner with immediate effect from participation in IPL 2018.” The release also added that, “The BCCI hopes that the cricketers participating in the IPL hold the highest regard for the Spirit of Cricket and Code of Conduct for Players and Match Officials.”    
                                        Simply put, Rajeev Shukla who is IPL Chairman on this key issue made it amply clear that, “Cricket Australia has banned Steve Smith and David Warner and we are also barring these two players from this year’s IPL. The replacements will be made available to Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad. We did not take any decision in haste, it was a well thought out decision.” No doubt, in a double blow for the two players Smith and Warner, they were also barred from this year’s IPL. This came after the Cricket Australia sanctions and their forced stepping down as captains of Rajasthan Royals and Sunrise Hyderabad respectively. The third banned player Cameron Bancroft does not play in the IPL and so he is not affected in any manner by decision of IPL.
                                            As things stand, even an emotional Australia cricket coach Darren Lehmann decided to quit finally and said he was stepping down after this week’s test match against South Africa due to abuse he and his family received over a ball-tampering scandal that has rocked the sport. His voice choking with emotion at a news conference on the eve of the Johannesburg test, the last of the four-match series against arch rivals South Africa, Lehmann said that his decision to quit was tough but voluntary. He said very emotionally that, “My family and I got a lot of abuse over the last week. Speaking to my family, it’s the right time to step away.” Lehmann is himself a burly former Test player known well for his no-nonsense approach on and off the field.
                                      Truth be told, Lehmann conceded that he should take some blame for the aggressive culture that has developed in the Australian team during his team as coach. He said that, “Ultimately I’m responsible for the culture of the team. Been thinking about my position for a while, despite telling media yesterday that I’m not resigning.” The real fault is not of Lehmann but of Australian cricket culture which has developed over the years.
                                          Needless to say, we have seen before our own eyes how Australian cricketers used to start fighting with Indian cricketers on very small pretext but it was Indian players who used to receive the wrong end of the stick always! But now things have changed! The real face of Australian cricketers stands exposed! The Australian players always want to win somehow no matter if some rules have to be broken but earlier media always sided with them but now finally their real face stands exposed completely before the people!    
                                       As it turned out, while being extremely disappointed at the disconcerting ball-tampering episode during the Australia-South Africa third Test in Cape Town that has rocked the cricket world, the Chairman of the ICC Shashank Manohar minced no words in putting forth his candid views that, “Every team wants to win, but players cannot use dubious methods to gain victory.” He also said that, “It is not in the spirit of the game. The ICC has taken a serious note of the events in Cape Town.” It was ICC which first imposed punitive actions on these 3 Australian players and then Cricket Australia too acted!
                                   It is noteworthy that when asked about the ICC’s plan of action, Manohar said that, “The ICC plans to put together a group of former players of impeccable reputation. This new panel will operate under the existing Code of Conduct, but (it) will be free to recommend punitive measures that it may deem fit. The penalty must be such that it deters all cricketers from indulging in such malpractices in future.” Manohar further revealed that, “The ICC would talk to former cricketers – who have been captains of their countries – Allan Border, Shauun Pollock, Anil Kumble, Mahela Jayawardene and Richie Richardson and ascertain their availability to perform the specific role.”
                                   Be it also noted, the ICC’s Code of Conduct for players and match officials have been put in place after consulting the Cricket Committee which actually outlined the classification of offences and punishments and on the Cricket Committee’s guidance, the ICC’s legal team drafted the regulations. This was considered necessary to ensure that errant players don’t take cricket for granted and face punishment for blithely disregarding the rules of the game and bringing disrepute not just for themselves and for their own nation but also for the whole game of cricket which is still held in highest esteem!            
                                        All said and done, the recent undesirable controversy has certainly tarnished the reputation of Australian cricketers. It will take a long time for cricketers of Australia to leave this shameful legacy behind! It is high time and even now it is not too late. They must evolve ways to prevent such unpalatable turn of events in the future on the cricket ground!
                                        In sum, the cricketers of Australia must admit that just winning the game of cricket by hook or crook had become a part of their culture! They were desperate to always somehow win the game! In the process, they gave a short shrift to all rules and regulations by which the cricketers are themselves bound which they cannot disregard under any circumstances!
                                     This is not the gentleman game that you resort to all sorts of tactics to somehow win the game! It will not do them or their country any good rather will tarnish their own image as well as the image of their own nation whom they represent so proudly just like we are seeing currently! They must imbibe some lessons from Indian cricketers who always play by the book and always behave most decently!
                                        Even in the past whenever Indian players had an argument with Australian cricket players they were themselves responsible for misbehaving with Indian players which they never admitted rather blamed Indian players themselves but now the whole world has seen the real face of Australian cricketers! Still it is not too late! A damage control exercise can be undertaken even now!
                                    It goes without saying that they must at least now take it as a compelling wake up call and reform themselves hugely so that they are not again a source of major embarrassment for their ownself as well as for their own country that is Australia! It is a herculean task for them but certainly not impossible! They must give it a try!     
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.