Can the cricketers banned for ball tampering ever regain their hero status? It’s happened before



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Steve Smith has borne the brunt of the public and media vitriol over Australian cricket’s ball-tampering scandal.
EPA/Muzi Ntombela

Keith Parry, Western Sydney University and Emma Kavanagh, Bournemouth University

Overnight, Cricket Australia handed out its promised “significant sanctions” for a ball-tampering incident that has engulfed the sport in scandal. Steve Smith and David Warner, the team’s captain and vice-captain, have been banned for 12 months. Cameron Bancroft, who carried out the failed plot, received a nine-month ban.

It was also revealed it was sandpaper, and not “yellow tape and the granules from the rough patches of the wicket” as originally claimed, that Bancroft tried to use to alter the ball’s condition in the Test match between South Africa and Australia.

While the International Cricket Council (ICC) initially suspended Smith for only one Test, all three are now banned from international and domestic (professional) cricket in Australia. Smith and Warner have also had their lucrative Indian Premier League contracts torn up, and some sponsors have already distanced themselves from the players and the sport. But these measures fall short of the lifetime bans some called for.

As captain, Smith has borne the brunt of the public and media vitriol, particularly as he accepted responsibility for what had happened. He may yet be Australian captain again in the future.

But according to Cricket Australia’s investigation, it was Warner who developed the plan and instructed Bancroft – a younger player – to carry it out. Warner also showed a “lack of contrition” and will therefore not be considered for any leadership position in the future.

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Does the punishment fit the crime?

Ball tampering is clearly cheating; it breaks the rules and is against the “spirit of cricket”. But while it has been deemed the “moral equivalent of doping”, there is a lack of consistency in how sanctions are dished out to offenders.




Read more:
Just not cricket: why ball tampering is cheating


Bans for doping violations are often severe. Players such as Andre Russell have been banned for 12 months for failing to record their whereabouts for drug testing. But, historically, ICC bans for ball tampering have been more lenient: Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi received a two-game ban for biting the ball in an attempt to alter its condition.

Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi’s bite-tampering incident.

However, a harder line has been taken for incidents of match-fixing. Three Pakistan players were banned and jailed for a spot-fixing incident in 2010. South Africa’s Herschelle Gibbs received a six-month ban in 2000 for agreeing to fix a match, even though he did not follow through with it.

Lifetime bans are not uncommon in sport generally. Ryan Tandy was banned for life for attempted spot-fixing in a rugby league game. Lance Armstrong was banned from sanctioned Olympic sports for life and had his results voided for his serial doping in cycling. Even figure skating is not immune: Tonya Harding was similarly banned for hindering the prosecution into a vicious attack on a fellow competitor.

It is difficult to compare sanctions across sports. But, when doing so, the inconsistencies are apparent. Boxer Mike Tyson was handed a 15-month ban for biting off part of Evander Holyfield’s ear; footballer Luis Suarez received an eight-game ban for racially abusing an opponent; fellow footballer Paul Davis only served a nine-match ban for punching and breaking an opponent’s jaw.

In light of these punishments, are nine- and 12-month bans for premeditated cheating and lying reasonable and just?

Cricket Australia has been criticised for the time it took to reach a decision. But it’s essential that due diligence is done and facts are gathered before a sentence is handed down. Without this, decisions are made through the pressure of public shaming, and social media get to cast the final vote on the punishment.

If sporting organisations want players to act morally on field, then they too should be guided by moral behaviour in governing the sport.

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Forgive and forget?

Society is often keen to forgive top athletes when they transgress. When athletes admit their mistakes and ask forgiveness it is usually granted.

Over time, sports fans also tend to forget athletes’ errors and focus solely on their on-field ability. In cricket, for instance, Don Bradman’s role in disputes over pay as a cricket administrator is largely glossed over. Shane Warne’s year-long ban for a doping violation is rarely mentioned.

Drugs cheats are accepted (and sometimes welcomed) back into sport – some even after multiple doping offences.

In many sports, athletes’ chequered pasts are ignored in favour of their on-field ability. It is often the actions that come as a result of their behaviour that are judged, and not the infringement itself.

Athletes frequently transgress, but their subsequent redemption is often woven into the narrative around them. Stories around sporting heroes follow several patterns, but the most recognised is the hero’s journey. The “hero” sets out on a quest but is faced by a crisis or descends into a hellish underworld. They “heroically” overcome these challenges and ultimately return to glory.




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The ConversationIn this instance, Smith, Warner and Bancroft are in a hell of their own making. If they manage to return, and do so triumphantly, then it is likely they will be forgiven – and some may even forget their role in this sorry affair. Only time will tell whether they will again be considered heroic.

Keith Parry, Senior Lecturer in Sport Management, Western Sydney University and Emma Kavanagh, Senior Lecturer in Sports Psychology and Coaching Sciences, Bournemouth University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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The day Australian cricket lost its integrity and a country reacted with shock and anger


Peter Terry, University of Southern Queensland

The public fury that greeted the premeditated ball tampering orchestrated by Australian cricketers Cameron Bancroft, Steve Smith and other team members in Cape Town suggests the incident is seen as diminishing the personal integrity of every Australian citizen.

As a sport psychologist for more than 30 years, I have seen the best and the worst of athlete behaviour but even I felt personally affronted.

The conspiracy to cheat, casually hatched by the senior playing group over a lunch break, reverberates well beyond cricket and even sport itself.

Not only is the incident seen as tarnishing the baggy green and the legacy of Aussie test cricketers who went before, but more importantly it has removed any vestige of the country’s moral high ground.




Read more:
Just not cricket: why ball tampering is cheating


No longer can we point the finger. No longer is breaking the rules something committed by others in the cricket world, such as Faf de Plessis and his Lollygate incident and Pakistan’s spot fixing scandal, rather than by us.

Bancroft was contrite in front of the world’s media and clearly willing to take his punishment. Smith’s response to getting caught red-handed was acute embarrassment followed by an affirmation that he remained “the right person for the job” of Australian cricket captain.

Confession time.

The backlash

Their lack of awareness of the tidal wave of criticism that would break once the nation woke up to the news spoke volumes about the culture that pervades this team.

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Condemnation was swift and universal. “Blatant cheating,” said former captain Michael Clarke, clearly incandescent with rage. “A national day of shame,” opined former test batsman Jimmy Maher.

Criticism from abroad has been equally vicious. “This pious team who look down on everyone else … are getting their just desserts,” chimed in England spinner Graeme Swann, accusing the Australian team of longstanding double standards.

Former England captain Mike Atherton, now an erudite sports writer for The Times, headlined that the “stink surrounding hypocritical Australia goes deeper than ball tampering alone”.


The Times/Screenshot

How long before someone raises the spectre of a convict past to explain the fact that national representatives of Australia have been shown to be untrustworthy?

Is the tough but fair image gone?

As England’s sport psychologist in the 1993 Ashes series, I watched at close quarters as an Australian team featuring Border, Boon, Hayden, Healy, Hughes, Taylor, Warne, and the Waugh twins brushed England aside for a 4-1 victory.

They played tough but fair cricket born of a glue-like culture that was as impressive as it was intimidating. They were local blokes made good, revered as the embodiment of values shared by the average Australian.

My experiences in international sport have taught me the double-edged nature of strong team cohesion: a boost to performance but with potential to lead honourable people into questionable moral territory, both on and off the field.

The empirical and anecdotal evidence of a positive relationship between team bonding and sport performance is unequivocal.

The downside of creating a culture of unquestioning mutual support among a group of men desperate to win test matches is that a dual moral code can evolve. This sees them do things in the pursuit of victory that they would not contemplate in the real world.

The ball-tampering attempt was seen as both dumb and unconscionable, given the sheer number of on-ground TV cameras. Yet it provides evidence of a warped moral code, rather than low IQ, on the part of Smith and Co.

“It was worth taking the risk” seems to have been their mantra. Wrong!

It is one of the clearest examples of the pedestal syndrome, whereby prodigiously talented young sportspeople are elevated in society to the point at which they lose sight of the difference between right and wrong.

Even Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull alluded wistfully to the fact that Australian cricketers are regarded more highly than any politician.




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Smith was feted by the media and the public over the previous 12 months for his brilliant form, labelled the greatest batsman since Bradman. This is undoubtedly the highest pedestal available to the modern cricketer.

But he now appears to believe that the almost sacred rules against ball-tampering apply only tangentially to him and the Australian team.

With just a few remorseful words, delivered with apparent indifference to the magnitude of the act, Smith went from hero to zero faster than the disgraced Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson ran his drug-fuelled 100m.

It’s not cricket

“The cricketing gods have spoken loud and clear,” concluded Allan Border, as Australia crumbled to ignominious defeat by 322 runs in Cape Town.

Never has the result of a test match mattered less. The apparent death of Australian integrity, forged through two centuries of nation-building, wartime heroics, and sporting achievement, has been greeted publicly with the early stages of a grief response.

The shock and disbelief has been followed rapidly by white-hot anger that the custodians of values burned deep into the national psyche have betrayed the people of Australia.

What follows is uncertain. The International Cricket Council has meted out its customary slap on the wrist for cheating in the form of a one-match ban, while Cricket Australia has stood down the captain for the final test match of the series.

It has hardly been a draconian punishment so far.

Long road to recovery

Meanwhile, how do parents explain to their children that their heroes are dishonest and can’t be trusted? Will we see an exodus of participants from grassroots cricket?




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Discussion among pundits looking for explanations has already unearthed social injustice, the cult of celebrity, mega salaries, A$10 million homes, first-class travel and inflated entourages as contributing to the moral failings of our national representatives.

The term “that’s just not cricket”, once a condemnation of anything with even a whiff of moral turpitude, is now surely destined to become something of a compliment.

The ConversationIt’s a long road back to respectability for the Australian cricket team, which may have to start with root-and-branch changes to its culture from the top down. As for forgiveness from the Australian public, that may take longer still.

Peter Terry, Professor of Psychology, University of Southern Queensland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Just not cricket: why ball tampering is cheating


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In happier times: Cameron Bancroft and Steve Smith talk to the media during the victorious Ashes series.
AAP/Darren England

Keith Parry, Western Sydney University; Emma Kavanagh, Bournemouth University, and Steven Freeland, Western Sydney University

Australian cricket is engulfed in scandal after TV cameras caught Cameron Bancroft attempting to manipulate the condition of the ball during the team’s third Test match against South Africa. Bancroft and the Australian captain, Steve Smith, subsequently admitted to the offence and the collusion of the player leadership group in the decision to do so.

Altering the condition of the match ball is against the rules of the sport, contrary to “the spirit of cricket”, and deemed to be “unfair”. It is a form of cheating.

What is ball tampering?

Cricket is not only controlled by a set of rules but, according to the sport’s laws, it should also be played “within the spirit of cricket”.

Like most sports, cricket is a self-regulating entity. The national associations and, ultimately, the International Cricket Council (ICC) enforce the laws. That said, cricket remains tied to gentlemanly ideals and the myth of “fair play”.

This “spirit” encourages respect for players and officials while advocating for self-discipline. Significantly, it says the:

… major responsibility for ensuring fair play rests with the captains.

Within these rules, law 41.3 identifies changing the condition of the match ball as an offence and “unfair play”. Specifically, law 41.3.2 states:

It is an offence for any player to take any action which changes the condition of the ball.

But why is the condition of the ball so important?

The ability to “swing” a ball is a prized skill in cricket. Altering the condition of one side of the ball can help it to swing, and may provide an advantage to the bowling team.




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Players try regularly try to “rough up” one side of the ball by, for instance, deliberately bouncing it on hard ground or applying sweat or saliva to it in ingenious ways. Such practices are not deemed to be contrary to the laws, even if they may not be within the spirit of cricket. Cricketers can bend the rules but not break them.

However, others have been known to use fingernails to scratch the ball, or have rubbed it on the zip of their trousers. Such measures are against the laws and are punishable under the ICC’s Code of Conduct.

In this case, Smith has been banned for one match and fined his match fee. Bancroft, who was caught with a piece of yellow sticky tape that he was attempting to use to tamper with the ball, has also been fined most of his fee and issued three demerit points.

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Risk and reward

When games are evenly matched, small gains from cheating can be enough to swing the result one way. This has occurred in other sports.

Sport is now a commercial product with large rewards for winning. In addition, when players are representing their country, there may be considerable pressure to win at all costs, particularly when sport plays a prominent role in the country’s national identity.

According to Smith, the Australians “saw this game as such an important game”. Here, the significance of the game and the team’s desire to win are used to justify cheating. The spirit of cricket and “fair play” were given little thought.

In his work on match-fixing, investigative journalist Declan Hill identifies several questions that may be considered when players are contemplating cheating. The importance of the game is a key factor. Prospective cheats will also evaluate whether they can win without cheating and the sanctions they risk if they are caught.

The Australian cricketers believed the game was slipping away from them. They either did not think they would be caught, or were not deterred by the possible sanctions.

Leading by example

In several cases of cheating, it has been senior players that have induced their younger teammates to cheat.

Two former cricket captains, South Africa’s Hansie Cronje and Pakistan’s Salman Butt, both recruited younger, less experienced players in their attempts to manipulate cricket matches. Similarly, Bancroft is at the start of his Test career and appears to have been influenced by others in the team.

Rather than ensuring fair play, Smith contrived to break both the game’s laws and spirit. Worryingly, it was not just Smith and Bancroft, but a group of senior players who were initially involved.

The players will have evaluated whether it was morally right to cheat and decided that winning was more important. While not a “crime” in the traditional sense of the word, the premeditated nature of these actions increases the level of deception and subsequent outrage surrounding the decision.

The event calls into question not only the behavioural integrity of those involved but also more broadly the moral integrity of the environment in which they function. This is an environment that leaves players viewing ball-tampering on this scale as a viable match-winning strategy.

Smith’s role, as captain, has often been described as the second-most-important job in Australia (after the prime minister). It is for this reason that the Australian Sports Commission has called for him, along with any members of the leadership group or coaching staff “who had prior awareness of, or involvement in, the plan to tamper with the ball”, to stand down or be sacked.

The plot to tamper with the ball was a clear attempt to cheat and has brought the spirit of cricket into question. The implications of being caught cheating or significance of the action were overruled in favour of an outcome: winning a match.

The ConversationSuch actions demonstrate the short-term focus players can have in the moment, ignoring the magnitude of their decisions. In this case, the fallout will be far greater than any punishment the sport will hand out.

Keith Parry, Senior Lecturer in Sport Management, Western Sydney University; Emma Kavanagh, Senior Lecturer in Sports Psychology and Coaching Sciences, Bournemouth University, and Steven Freeland, Dean, School of Law and Professor of International Law, Western Sydney University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.