Australia Faces its Biggest Sports Scandal of Modern Times

Published March 26th, 2018 - 02:51 GMT
Steve Smith, Australia's captain, fields questions from reporters after admitting to ball tampering (AFP)
Steve Smith, Australia's captain, fields questions from reporters after admitting to ball tampering (AFP)


By Ty Joplin


The Australian national cricket team has been rocked by one of the biggest cricketing scandals of modern times.

Facing an inevitable and massive defeat to South Africa in Cape Town, a plot was orchestrated by Australia’s leadership to scuff up the ball enough for it to be replaced by another one that would have hopefully given Australia’s bowlers an advantage.

The team’s captain, Steve Smith, and vice-captain, David Warner, have resigned from their posts effective immediately and face long-term repercussions. Steve Smith, once heralded as the 21st century’s best Test batsman and perhaps as good as cricket’s greatest player, Donald Bradman, faces a lifetime ban from the sport.

“The leadership knew about it, we spoke about it at lunch. I’m not proud of what’s happened. It’s not within the spirit of the game,” said Steve Smith in a press conference on the issue. “It was purely the leadership group that came up with this.”

Exactly who did and did not knew about the ball-tampering scheme is currently being debated as it will determine who gets punished and to what extent. At worst, much of Australia’s coaching may be in the firing line.

“We all woke up this morning shocked and bitterly disappointed,” said Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

“Cricket is synonymous with fair play. How can our team be engaged in cheating like this? This is a shocking disappointment. It’s wrong, and I look forward to Cricket Australia taking decisive action soon.”

Many of cricketing’s greats have spoken publicly to condemn the ball tampering, including Steve Smith’s predecessor as captain, Michael Clarke. England’s Kevin Pietersen also took to twitter to voice his discontent.




Steve Smith’s counterpart in the series, South African captain Faf Du Plessis was mired in a similar scandal in 2016, when he was found guilty of ball-tampering by applying a sugar-coat to the ball to make it swing in the ar.

“Obvious the situation that I was in was really difficult for me… ball-shining versus ball-tampering [are] two very different situations and one is definitely much more serious than the other,” Du Plessis said at a press conference.

This particular ball-tampering scandal is notable due to the stunning admission from Smith that the leadership not only knew about it, but concocted the plan. The revelation rocked Australia, who view its cricket team as the most dominant and law-abiding national team in the cricketing world.

“It goes to the heart of Australian national identity. Australia's cricket team is older than the country itself and historically, cricket has been the team sport with the greatest nationwide support in Australia,” writes one commentator for ESPNCricInfo.

“The written Laws of Cricket might tolerate Smith and [Australia head coach] Lehmann staying on as captain and coach, but the unwritten rules of Australia will not.”

The incident in question occurred on the fourth day of a five-day Test match between South Africa and Australia in Newlands, Cape Town. Australia’s opening batsman Cameron Bancroft was spotted by T.V. cameras scuffing up the ball with a piece of tape.

When umpires on the field were notified of the move, Bancroft was seen stuffing the tape in his trousers and pleading ignorance with the umpires. Later, Bancroft took responsibility for the incident.  

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