Ball-tampering scandal: SA scorn for Oz bosses off mark!

James Sutherland (Gallo Images)
James Sutherland (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Steady, fellow-South Africans ... just for the moment, I believe we need to cut a far-from-snoozing Cricket Australia a bit of slack.

READ: A look at the 48 matches banned Smith, Warner will miss

Little more than three full days after “Stormy Saturday” at Newlands - the ground has almost certainly seen nothing quite like it in its 129 years of Test matches - certain, massively far-reaching steps have already been taken by CA officials, some of them barely off hastily-arranged long-haul flights, to get to grips with the Tapegate furore.

Confirmed on Tuesday by their tired, demoralised-looking chief executive James Sutherland in Johannesburg was that three core figures in the ball-tampering scandal - relative rookie, physical perpetrator Cameron Bancroft plus the supposed primary plotters and leadership panel of captain Steve Smith and deputy David Warner – had been ordered home, their tours ended ahead of the decisive fourth Test.

Simultaneously, he warned that “serious sanctions” awaited the offenders ... and, as if on cue on Wednesday morning, the follow-up news broke that Smith and Warner will sit out a year (double that for Smith in any fresh, national captaincy aspiration terms) and Bancroft nine months.

Before you think any deeper, in a possible desire to cast the net of culpability wider, and mindful that it is clearly driven by a strong tide of approving sentiment from the Aussie public, wouldn’t you acknowledge that those are pretty seismic, decisive measures in themselves?

The steps would not have been taken with reckless haste, or without some pronounced winces: Smith is the world’s top-ranked Test batsman, averaging a presently unrivalled 61.37, and Warner - his well-publicised warts and all - a 74-cap part of the Test furniture at the top of the order since December 2011.

Smith, remember, now won’t lead Australia to the not inconsequential matter of a World Cup, in England in mid-2019, even if he is probably young enough, at 28, to potentially yet do so in 2023. 

All will go home to a walk of shame (there is seemingly no lack of takers either in Oz or SA for it being deemed justified) amidst a battery of flashes and scrum of jabbing microphones once they have cleared customs Down Under, and prone to hostility and embarrassment in public spaces they could previously inhabit with greater tranquillity.

Yet a pronounced portion of the reaction in South Africa to these swift developments (I’d certainly brand them swift: just look how cumbersomely the wheels of criminal justice, for example, can turn, worldwide) has been more to heap scorn over where they stopped, than to salute the considerable speed and extent of the punishment on the frontline three.

I empathise, and then some, with the widespread cynicism over the “finding” - at least at this juncture in the not necessarily ziplocked CA inquiry process - that impropriety stopped dead with Smith, Warner and Bancroft.

As recent past Baggy Greens captain Michael Clarke opined, with the help of personal Newlands knowledge, on Twitter: “Too many reputations on the line for the full story not to come out ... Cape Town change room is a very small place!”

By implication, he was suggesting more culprits, more dirty laundry, may yet be exposed.

And who is to say, on that score, that Cricket Australia have now, emphatically, reeled in their lines and ended their “fishing trip” for the fullest truth?

If there are further maggots in the camp, officials are unlikely to be so naïve as to believe they can be left to fester; such a phenomenon would, in all likelihood, only damage their besieged product more.

In the zealous wish, it seems, in some South African circles, for virtually the entire Aussie squad to be collared, maybe we should step back for a second and just chew on whether Cricket South Africa would have acted with such gusto, and early assuredness, if presented with a similar situation? (I’d be inclined to submit the jury’s out.)

There is also the glass-house factor: given how blurry the lines remain between “ball management” and ball-tampering, you cannot flippantly wish away from your possibly partisan thoughts the immeasurably more low-sanction penalties (fines each time) handed to the Proteas’ captain, Faf du Plessis, for his role in the prior Mintgate and Zipgate flashpoints.

But just as pertinent right now is to chew on the role of the game’s primary global custodians, the International Cricket Council, at this troubling time.

If their own, earlier sanction had been the final say in the matter (and CA simply aye-ayeing it), then we would have had the wholly unsavoury, frankly laughable situation of two of the masterminds in the premeditated scheme to affect the integrity of the ball at Newlands, Bancroft and Warner, both being cleared to play in the series finale at the Bullring.

Yes, the now infamously TV-busted Bancroft would simply have surrendered three-quarters of his match fee and been handed three of those (controversial all in their own way, with Kagiso Rabada a central, crazily over-cited figure) “demerit points”, and the repugnant Warner similarly scot-free to take to the Wanderers turf … that lavishly bandaged, impressively industrious hand and all.

Brand me overly generous, charitable ... traitorous, even, if you really must. But just for the moment, I feel Cricket Australia are probably dancing about as fast and transparently as they can in tough, complex and emotion-charged circumstances.

The ICC? Well, there’s a case for arguing that, hunkered in their desert hideaway, they haven’t even dressed for the ball.

the gameuct s, just run out at Kingsmead links to the Tape-gate rumpusl showing previously unreleased *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


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