OPINION - go easy on Steve Smith

take a breath

OPINION - go easy on Steve Smith

I am absolutely baffled at the reaction to the ball tampering incident that occurred at the weekend during the Third Test of Australia's tour of South Africa. My phone lit up with conversation on Saturday night as news began to travel of the Australian captain admitting to a plan to 'tamper' or 'interfere' with the ball to try and gain an advantage over their opposition. The story swelled on Sunday, and now, come Monday, with the test lost and the series result in disarray, the incident has blown up and is now being reported around the world! 

A disgrace. Cheating. No longer proud of our Australian cricketers. The biggest scandal of Australian cricketing history. These are some of the comments made from prominent figures around the country, and not just from the sporting community, even our Prime Minister came out and condemned the actions of Steve Smith and the other cricketers involved, David Warner (Vice Captain and Smith's confidant) and Cam Bancroft (the man that followed through with the plan).

I follow cricket very closely and I know my opinion on this matter may be controversial, but seriously everyone needs to calm their respective farms. 

A disgrace? Cheating? Someone suggested the whole team be stood down! Give me a break. 

The mud has been flung so hard at Smith he may need three showers and a strong scrub to remove it. calls to ban him from cricket (ludicrous) at the extreme end with a more general consensus that his captaincy should be relinquished permanently. I think it is an overreaction. 

Smith, Warner and Bancroft may be a lot of things, stupid for one (how did they possibly think they wouldn't be spotted on the camera's) and certainly they should be punished for breaching the rules of the game but to strip the two leaders from their positions is punishment that does not match the crime. 

It's all about context in the game of cricket. 

First of all, you need to understand what Smith was doing and why. Smith, Warner and Bancroft were attempting to achieve a cricketing phenomenon reverse swing, Where one side of the ball is damaged and the other is in better nick, therefore allowing for the ball to move in the air in the hope of confusing and beating the batsman. Achieving reverse swing is difficult, but all teams try to do it. It is legal. 

Interfering with the ball to attain this reverse swing is a very much a part of the game. It's the extent to which you tamper with it, that's important to understand and where rules can be broken. You can apply saliva to the ball and shine it to keep one side 'newer' than the other. You can bowl the ball into the ground or roll it along the ground to try and scuff up one of the sides. You can't step on the ball. And you can't rub the ball in makeshift sand paper.

Australia overstepped the mark here and yes it was daft to do when there are so many cameras around that will inevitably catch you out. It's almost laughable how stupid the Aussies were. They deserved punishments. 

This is not the only time this has happened. Just last series in Australia now South African skipper Faf Du Plessis applied a cough lolly to one side of the ball to shine it and damaged the other with his zipper. He received a one match ban and the world continued to live, he continues now to captain and bat on. 

In the 2005 Ashes series the team were masters at reverse swing. They used cough lollies again to shine the ball and destroy the Aussies. No action was taken though. In fact, the English cricket county circuit are renowned for their techniques for interfering with the ball. Sunscreen on whites, or kicking the ball around the field have been noted but not punished severely.

So why do we call for the head of Smith? The orchestrator of the 'biggest scandal in Australian cricket history'? 

Have we forgotten about the underarm ball (the Kiwis haven't), or how about when Mark Waugh and Shane Warne were caught corresponding with an illegal Indian bookmaker? Or Warney's infamous diet pill that led to him being rubbed out of a year of cricket?

This story is a storm in a teacup and those calling to ban the players responsible, even the whole team, need to chill out for a second or ten. Sure rub Smith out for a test match, take away his match fees, but he is a good captain with the best average since Bradman, please don't sabotage his career for a dumb decision he undoubtedly regrets...