We have a weird bat and ball game here called cricket. It’s like baseball but bigger, better and full of solemn action. The English are responsible for inventing the game, we in Australia like to think we are the standard-bearers of this religion now. And yesterday the top practitioners of this religion were caught and confessed to something akin to slave trading.
This is how serious it is for Australia when its cricket captain and half of the team, and, possibly, the coach were busted for ball-tampering against South Africa in Cape Town yesterday.
South African TV rivals made sure they broadcast live in 4K glory every little moment on and off the field. Player slyly tampers with the ball with a foreign object -a sticky tape- in his palm which he puts back in his pocket; having witnessed this on TV screen, the coach seen giving instructions via a walkie-talkie to the off-field substitute; during a break, the substitute runs to the field to inform the player that he’s been seen doing an unfunny thing; later, the player removes the yellow sticky tape from his pocket and chucks it down in his pants; the umpires approach him to ask if he’s been doing anything unfunny to the ball, as the captain listens in; “nargh, mate, nargh”, the player says, “that’s my black hanky in my pocket. See?”
In this game, you can run in with the ball and strike it on the pitch at 150 Kms an hour -which is how the ball normally wears down-, you can polish one side or both sides with a handkerchief or on your pants, and you can even wet it on one side with saliva. You can do that to get the ball to swing in the air or behave in particular ways.
But you cannot use a ‘foreign object’ to change the condition of the ball. That is cheating. The ball is supposed to wear and tear naturally, not on purpose. In this ‘gentleman’s game’ governed by laws and conventions, your word is your bond, and you don’t cheat when you say “I don’t cheat”.
If one player is doing it that’s a crime against cricket, but if more than one player is involved, including the captain, the team’s ‘leadership group’, and, possibly, the coach, then that’s a vast conspiracy. Unless Australia takes strong action and forces other nations to follow suit, then the team’s reputation will take a generation to recover, if at all. It is that bad and sad.