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24 Mar 2018

Dark day for Australian cricket

Picture credit: NAPARAZZI

It's 5am here in Sydney, I've just woken up. As is fairly customary for myself, I have fallen asleep with the sounds of Test cricket in the background.

As usual, the Australian Test team would be going about their business while I slept and I would digest and dissect the day's play when I woke. Well, that was the plan, anyway.

Instead, I wake to headlines of ball tampering accusations and admissions to that very crime by an Australian opener and the captain of the side.

Bancroft has been charged by the match referee, Andy Pycroft, with a level two offence, attempting to alter the condition of the ball. All reports indicate that he has accepted the sanction completely. There is no indication exactly what penalty he will receive though he could be fined anywhere between 50% and 100% of his match fee and have either three or four demerit points registered against his name.

Should he receive four demerit points, he would face an automatic one-Test suspension.

Caught red-handed

Television footage captured during the second session of the third day's play appeared to show Bancroft with a yellow object in his hand. When confronted, he admitted at the end of the day's play that it was a piece of tape with chunks of the pitch on the sticky side and that he was using the crudely fashioned instrument to further rough up the ball. 

Roughing up a cricket ball is often a tactic used to generate reverse swing for the seam bowlers.

To say this news has shocked the cricket world would be an understatement. The Australian side is well known for pushing the boundaries and playing the game in an aggressive and demanding fashion but to have been found out blatantly cheating is not just bitterly disappointing, it raises a number of questions over past performances as well.

How often have the Australian side opted for this tactic under the leadership of Steve Smith? Is this genuinely the first time they have found themselves so desperate to turn the tables back in their favour that they have stooped to a level degrading and demeaning to the gentleman's game?

Post-match, while requests for interviews were quickly dismissed or rebuffed, Smith did say that the leadership group had hatched the plan during the lunch interval and done so without the knowledge or approval of the coaching staff, but as things stand, can we really believe that either?

Once you've been found cheating, it's very hard for the public to accept anything you say as gospel truth ever again.

Smith won't stand down

While Smith was adamant that he would not step down as captain, his tenure will carry a significant black mark moving forward.

"Obviously, today was a big mistake on my behalf and on the leadership group's behalf as well," he said at the end of the day's play.

"But I take responsibility as the captain, I need to take control of the ship, but this is certainly something I'm not proud of and something that I can hope to learn from and come back strong from.

"I am embarrassed to be sitting here talking about this.

"We're in the middle of such a great series and for something like this to overshadow the great cricket that's been played and not have a single cricket question in here, that's not what I'm about and not what the team's about.

"We'll move past this. It's a big error in judgment but we'll learn from it and move past it."

As a passionate and ardent follower of cricket in Australia, I'm disgusted and embarrassed myself. The Australian cricket team represents one of the finest bastions of national pride and standing and, as such, should always be the standard bearer of fair play.

Today, they not only failed to live up to the highest standards set by the men who wore the Baggy Green before them, but they've cast doubt over the institution of the game in this country.

What are your thoughts on these unsavory proceedings? Let us know in the comments below.