The sound is no more dinning the head and the dust has settled after the infamous Australian ball tampering scandal. The culprits — curiously all batsmen — have been hung, drawn and quartered. Enough time has passed already for the sympathy factor to kick in and mercy petitions are being penned. The trio have paid a high price for their misadventure which, naturally enough, seemed ever so much bigger because the Australians did it. They have been sanctimonious critics of cheating in the game and must take it on the chin when they have been caught with their pants down as it were.
Considering their history of self-righteousness and the downright ‘holier than thou’ attitude they threw at Asians, it was hard to sympathise with the Aussies at the instant they were caught. They have done worse in being one of the original culprits in the betting and bookies scam. How easily they forgave Shane Warne and Mark Waugh for accepting money from bookies for weather and match info! Why thy even refused to act further on them on the grounds that the team management had fined them for their indiscretion and so could not be docked twice for the same offence.
How ironical it is that Australian cricket had to act after their Prime Minister brutally criticised their act with the ball and the whole country was outraged on the scam being exposed by the all-seeing cameras and some smart detective work initiated by de Villiers and the producers directing the cameramen. However, they would have got away with it if not for a nervous Bancroft trying to hide the tape in his trousers instead of keeping it below his goggles cleaning black cloth. This is probably the first instance of the Aussies being caught at this, but there were plenty of suspicions about them in their earlier Ashes triumph itself.
How the bowlers and the ‘keeper were kept in the dark about all this will remain one of those great Oz mysteries. The fact remains that the Aussies are no better than the rest of the crowd in tampering with the ball. They were, perhaps, as involved with bookies as the rest of the mob when betting was the first great scandal to surface after the ball issue that has been around since at least the Vaseline affair of the ‘70s. The umpires of the time innocently wondered why the ball was somehow not smelling so bad when the English bowlers were operating while Bishen Bedi’s Indians were getting knocked out by Lever’s swing.
Looking at it dispassionately, ball tampering is a minor offence when compared to throwing matches in collusion with bookies and gamblers. The game’s history is, however, pockmarked with tales of gambling and the Aussies were the ones who made the most noise about it when the Salim Malik affair first surfaced in the early ‘90s. They made it appear then that all this was an all-Asian affair and they were not tainted. Not until Hansie Cronje got stung by RAW taking an interest in what was going on in the world of bookies and cricketers as they were following international leads did the cricket world even wake up to the scam being far more widespread and did not involve just the Asians.
Let us just say there is place for sympathy now, more so because the big cheats have been hit hard in the pocket in their near $2 million IPL jackpot being denied. This is the first time that the BCCI, despite all its legal problems and its wrangling with the Committee of Administrators, acted promptly in banning the two Aussies from IPL-11. Cricket fans may have reacted either way. They may have been empathetic of their plight or castigated them for their act. But then forgiving them for everything and letting them play in early April would have been far too soon. It is best that the BCCI acted as it did. No one would have wanted the Aussies to enjoy Indian hospitality and money when they are not allowed to represent Australia.
Not even the land of Gandhi could be so forgiving as to host Smith and Warner at this time. This is not revenge so much as recognition that the culprits, who are the ones who get caught, must pay the penalty. Given the fact that they are already repenting their act and not chasing legal remedies means they would like to return to the system that made them such iconic cricketers. They would be most welcome in IPL-12. Until then they would have to reconcile themselves to staying in the corner Dennis the Menace often gets sent to in the long running comic strip.