Fallout: Australian cricket’s day of misery

Steven Smith and David Warner banned from international and domestic cricket for 12 months, while Cameron Bancroft receives nine months.

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Picture credit: NAPARAZZI

Cricket Australia have stayed true to course in handing out heavy sanctions to the players involved in the attempted ball tampering activity that took place during the third test between Australia and South Africa in Cape Town, with Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft all put into the firing line. The penalty process caps off for now what has been one of the bleakest periods in Australian cricket. 

What sanctions have been issued?

Steve Smith, previously banned for one test and fined 100% of his match fee by the ICC, has been banned from all international and domestic cricket for 12 months by Cricket Australia. He will also not be eligible to captain Australia again for 24 months, 12 months after his ban has concluded. He will not be included on the Australian contracted player’s list for the 2018/19 season (reportedly worth AUD 2m). As a side effect, he has also been banned by the BCCI from playing in this year’s IPL.

He can still play local club cricket for his Sydney-based side but will be required to give 100 hours of his time to community cricket initiatives. 

David Warner was stated as being the chief architect of the plan to tamper with the ball. He was not sanctioned by the ICC, but has also has been banned from all international and domestic cricket for 12 months by Cricket Australia. Incredulously and at the very extreme end, he has been banned from ever captaining Australia again in any format of the game. He will also not be included on the Australian contracted player’s list for the 2018/19 season (reportedly worth AUD 1.4m). As a side effect, he has also been banned by the BCCI from playing in this year’s IPL.

He can still play local club cricket for his Sydney-based side but will also be required to give 100 hours of his time to community cricket initiatives. 

Given Warner was stated as being the leader of the above-mentioned plan to tamper with the ball, he has arguably been dealt with the heaviest sentence of the trio.

Cameron Bancroft, previously fined 75% of his match fee by the ICC, has been banned from all international and domestic cricket for nine months by Cricket Australia. He will also not be eligible to captain Australia again for 21 months, 12 months after his ban has concluded. He will not be included on the Australian contracted player’s list for the 2018/19 season (with his deal expected to be worth up to AUD 500k). 

He can still play local club cricket for his Perth-based side but will also be required to give 100 hours of his time to community cricket initiatives. 

Why have they been charged?

They have all been charged under Cricket Australia’s code of conduct, with article 2.3.5 of the code of conduct relating to code of conduct offences of a “catch-all” nature, that cannot be covered by other specific offences. These charges have resulted from on-field charges which are against the laws of cricket, specifically law 42, relating to players conduct. 

The charges relate to conduct contrary to the spirit of the game, conduct unbecoming, conduct harmful to the interests of cricket, and conduct bringing the game into disrepute. These are termed level 3 breaches of the code (with levels ranging from 1 to 4 in terms of seriousness).

Is there an appeals process?

The matter is far from over however and seems destined for legal proceedings.

Under the code of conduct, all players have seven days to appeal their bans to the Cricket Australia General Counsel & Company Secretary, Christine Harman. If an appeal occurs, then Cricket Australia have five days to appoint an independent appeals commissioner, upon which a hearing would need to take place within 30 days, which would be final and binding on all parties.

At this stage, it is only reported that the players are considering their options. Given the excessive penalties inflicted on them, it would not be surprising to see all of the bans appealed respectively. All players will be allowed legal representation and are able to call witnesses in their support to aid their cases.

What else has happened?

It has been reported in the media today that Magellan, the listed financial services company which had been the naming sponsors for the recent Australian home Ashes series, has ended their sponsorship agreement with Cricket Australia, after seven months through their initial three-year deal. It was said to be worth AUD $20m, and has stepped back using the morality clause inherent in their agreement, which is commonplace in sponsorship arrangements. 

Smith has lost his individual sponsorship with Sanitarium to promote their Weetbix product, whilst Warner and Bancroft have lost their deals with sports clothing manufacturer Asics, and LG have opted not to renew Warner’s sponsorship deal with them. Other sponsors such as KFC have stood by the organisation and their handling of the incident.

It was also found that Smith and Bancroft had lied in the initial press-conference they gave at the end of the third day’s play of the third test. They initially stated that the foreign object used to affect the ball was adhesive tape when in fact the product was sandpaper. Part of their charges under the code of conduct related to misleading the public in this respect. Mention of a leadership group by Smith was limited to Warner and himself, and coach Darren Lehmann was found to have had no involvement in the offences. He has stayed on as coach. 

So what does this mean for the team?

To say the team is in disarray would be an understatement. Since day 3 of the Cape Town test there have been continuous disruptions to the team’s mental wellbeing and overall morale, and prior to the announcement of the sanctions, their Wednesday practice was called off. This is forgetting in the context that there is still cricket to be played, with the fourth test in Johannesburg starting tomorrow. A slightly new look team, likely to feature Joe Burns, Matthew Renshaw and Peter Handscomb as replacements, must see this as their opportunity to rest the demons that have plagued them over the last week, and focus on the cricket. 

The longer-term implications of the side are probably more significant. Smith and Warner in particular, being the senior most players in the side, have represented the fabric of the team over the past few years, and were expected to be the two players leading them into a World Cup defence in England in June next year. On the hypothetical theory, they return to the side by March/April next year, with no high-level cricket behind them, it would bring some serious questions about whether they fit into those World Cup plans. 

The structure of the team has also been damaged and the culture of this side is being looked at very closely. Suddenly Tim Paine has been thrust into being Australia’s 46th test skipper, and a new core leadership group will need to be formed while this mess is dealt with. Lehmann, in particular, will need to turn this team around. The good news is that their next cricketing assignment is not until June when they tour England for a five-match ODI series. This allows him time to help the team re-group, before India tour for the summer of 2018/19. 

It starts at the top-down and the executives and Board at Cricket Australia have instigated a review to occur of the culture at the organisation, which has happened on Sutherland and Co’s watch. Watch this space for directives which result from this. 

Unfortunately, wherever this issue ends up, whether Smith or Warner will ever be in captaincy positions of an Australian team again remains to be seen.

What does this mean for cricket?

It isn’t quite the time to compare these ball tampering offences with the library of others that have occurred in recent years. However, the bans inflicted by the ICC and home boards previously compared to this situation now, shows the vast difference in how it has been perceived by Cricket Australia, who seem to have made a controversial decision based on a myriad of public outcry, rather than general cricketing principles. 

Indeed, as the wise Hashim Amla told ESPN cricinfo, it has been a “reality check” for other teams. The verbal admission of a calculated plan to cheat the game has left a sour taste for all those associated with the game, as well as those who have previously perceived Australian’s sporting identify as “hard, but fair”. At no time before has the captain of a country admitted to how they went about undertaking such an act; silence has always been the response. The insight of the mindset of the modern cricketer as to how they have looked to obtain a deliberately unfair advantage on the field has certainly opened their eyes. This has simply not gone down well.

The gentleman’s game is no more, it never was, never will be. That happened long before this incident took place. But the way certain acts are perceived in the game may take on greater importance going forward, as the game has been stained and damaged for now, and will require some time to heal.

Where to for Warner, Smith, and Bancroft?

Apart from the appeals proceedings more than likely to take place, the trio will take time off and stay out of the public spotlight once they have made statements to explain their actions and afford apologies. A period to think, reflect and heal is certainly required.

This is not a light offence and should not be treated as such, however, the welfare of the players who have made a critical mistake needs to be looked at. If Cricket Australia believes in the spirit of the game and its rehabilitation, they will afford the necessary support to the very people who are supposed to be a part of it.

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